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Prost: Getting Ocon early is very important

Renault made Esteban Ocon’s availability for the Abu Dhabi test next week a crucial part of his release from Mercedes claims F1 legend Alain Prost, who is now a prominent advisor to the French team.

The 23-year-old driver was firmly under contract to Mercedes and will continue to be managed by Toto Wolff. It was announced just last week that Ocon will be free to get his first taste of Renault’s 2019 car in the post-race test after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

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“It looks like nothing, but it’s very important,” Prost told Auto Hebdo.

The French publication said Ocon’s availability for Abu Dhabi was “a condition” of his 2020 deal, after Red Bull refused to give Daniel Ricciardo an early release a year ago.

Ocon, who spent a year on the sidelines of F1, is relishing the opportunity and told Auto Motor und Sport recently, “Alain Prost becomes one of my mentors. That’s great news for me. It’s a great opportunity for me to work with a manufacturer like Renault.

“They have an ambitious project. They strive to catch up with the top three teams. When they revealed their plans to me, I was immediately hooked. I want to help them build a strong team.”

No racing driver enjoys sitting and watching races he should be in, that was the plight of Ocon in 2019, but he is adamant that the experience has served him well.

“I learned a lot from Mercedes this year,” he explained. “I will also contribute my experiences with Force India. You must not forget my time in other racing series. Like in the DTM, for example. I see certain things from a different angle and bring in a new perspective.

“They expect that from me. They want fresh air, advice and a different way of thinking. I hope I can help to move the team forward.”

Ocon steps up to partner highly respected and experienced Daniel Ricciardo who will be the benchmark for Ocon to match if not beat, “Daniel is one of the most respected drivers in the field. It will be a big challenge. But it’s also a great opportunity to compare with him.

“As a racer, you want to compete against the best riders. I will have one of the best next to me. We will push each other. This dynamic can only help the team.

“Of course, it will be hard to beat him but that must be my goal,” added Ocon who will make his 51st Grand Prix start when he lines up on the Melbourne grid next year, now a Renault driver.

Big Question: How will Esteban measure up to Daniel?