Mercedes AMG have announced Esteban Ocon is their official third driver for 2019, and will act as a reserve for Lewis Hamilton & Valtteri Bottas.
Esteban Ocon may be without a race seat for 2019, but his ever strengthening relationship with Mercedes has taken another step forward with the announcement that the young Frenchman will act as the team’s third driver next season.
As part of Mercedes driver program, team boss Toto Wolff said that a race seat had been found for his protege but that the deal had fallen through. Paddock rumour suggests that this deal was with Renault and fell apart when the team made the shock announcement that Daniel Ricciardo had joined them from Red Bull.
With no seats available at Force India and not much desire to go to the back of the grid with the other Mercedes customer team Williams, Mercedes have formally taken Ocon on as their third driver. Toto Wolff explained that the aim is to find him a seat, whether at Merc or elsewhere, for 2020: “The plans are pretty clear. He’s going to be very close to the works team, to Mercedes, he’s going to be our reserve driver, our third driver. We hope to maybe do the odd test with him also. We’re looking at pre-season and in-season, but that is not sorted out yet. He will spend a lot of time in the simulator and be ready for a seat in 2020.”
— Esteban Ocon (@OconEsteban) November 27, 2018
Ocon is in attendance at the Abu Dhabi test this week, on duty for Mercedes outside the car, just two days after his Force India career ended. He retired from the race due to an oil leak: “It’s a very frustrating way to end the season. Everything was going well, we had some fantastic battles and overtakes, and the pace we had was really good. We weren’t on the best strategy because we had to start on the hypersoft tyres, but we had managed to recover well and we were looking good for a finish in the points.”
“We did everything right as a team but sadly the car had an oil leak which forced us to retire. That’s how racing is: days like these are disappointing, but they make you stronger. I am grateful for all the support I have received from the fans, people inside the sport and of course inside the team this season.”