Alpine F1 driver Esteban Ocon ‘threw his hat in the ring’ by highlighting his ties to Mercedes as speculation runs rife regarding who will replace seven times Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton when he departs for Ferrari in 2025.
Ocon – a protege of Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff – previously served as a Mercedes F1 reserve and was at one point under consideration to replace Hamilton’s then-teammate Valtteri Bottas before moving to Renault aka Alpine in 2020.
But in a startling move that will change the F1 narrative substantially, exploded across the sporting world last week, as Hamilton is now the one on the move, switching to Ferrari at the end of this year. The Briton’s seat at Mercedes is one of the most coveted on the grid, even if the 2023 F1 WCC runners-up failed to win a race last season.
During Wednesday’s A524 launch at the Alpine factory in Enstone, when asked about the speculation and his contractualsituation Ocon said: “You know, I’ve always had strong links with Mercedes. I’m still a Mercedes junior driver. That’s always been, even if I’m not that junior any more. I’m contracted with them at some stage. ”
Esteban: It is how it is we’ll see
The Frenchman continued: “At the moment I am totally dedicated to Alpine. That’s my focus. I need to do a good job on track, as always. Every year is a crucial year in Formula 1 because it doesn’t matter if you have a contract or not.
“If you don’t perform, you can be out. If you do a strong job there will always be talks, rumours and good things for you,” added Ocon, a Grand Prix winner, triumphant in Hungary with Alpine in 2021.
Last season (2023) the 27-year-old finished third in Monaco, with Hamilton fourth, and ended the season 12th overall.
Ocon started out in Formula 1with Mercedes-powered Manor in 2016 and then raced for Mercedes-powered Force India aka Racing Point in 2017 and 2018 before serving as Mercedes reserve in 2019. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London)
Big Question: What chance does Esteban Ocon have of replacing Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes?