“It’s a little bit of a weird situation”: Ocon’s complicated prospects of becoming a Mercedes driver

Esteban Ocon is in an unusual situation currently. He is an Alpine works driver, driving a car powered by a Renault power unit, and is getting career counselling from Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

Wolff has been managing Ocon since 2015. The Mercedes boss added that Ocon’s Alpine ties might complicate the prospects of him ever racing for Mercedes.

Ocon spent 2019 as an official reserve driver for Mercedes. However, he severed his ties with the Silver Arrows after he joined Renault (now Alpine). Wolff, however, is still the manager for the Frenchman.

George Russell to take over?

Williams driver George Russell is a more likely contender for scoring a place with Mercedes. The Brit had even stepped in for Lewis Hamilton when he was sick with Covid-19.

With this incident, Wolff was asked at the Spanish Grand Prix on where Ocon stood in Mercedes in the future.

“Esteban, it’s a little bit of a weird situation, because he’s been a Mercedes junior for a long time, and he’s an Alpine works driver now and that’s fact,” said Wolff. “I think that the situation is good for him there, he’s growing, he’s putting in the performances… he’s French!

“I mean, all that, it’s very much the stars aligned and I think it needs to be Laurent’s [Laurent Rossi, Alpine CEO] and Esteban’s call first how to continue before we start to give an opinion.”

Irrespective of Ocon’s future, Mercedes are set to feature in this year’s ‘silly season’, with both Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas out of contract by the end of the year.

Valtteri Bottas to be replaced?

Wolff had previously refuted a statement that Bottas could be replaced by Russell mid-season. This comes after Bottas scored exactly half the points as compared to teammate Lewis Hamilton after four races.

Wolff, however, defended the Finnish driver after he finished a distant third in the Spanish Grand Prix.

“[Mentally] I keep saying he’s very strong,” said Wolff of Bottas.

“He’s in a good place and he keeps scoring. Yesterday [in qualifying] it was three drivers within a tenth, the weekend before he was on pole. So his speed is enormous.

“It’s just that when things go wrong at the start, or you’re in a gaggle with other cars and you lose time to the leaders, that’s basically K.O. And behind Charles today, I don’t know how much time he lost… 20 seconds or so.

“And then obviously it’s where you are, you’re third on the road at best.”

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