Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff, has come out in full support of his junior driver, Esteban Ocon, assuring the Frenchman that the team will never let him go, and would make their rivals pay for their mistake of not signing him.
“Not in a million years [will Ocon be released], because one day he is going to be in a Mercedes and win races and championships, and show all the others out there that they made a mistake,” Wolff said when asked about releasing Ocon.
Wolff had earlier blasted his rival teams for backing out of a commitment to sign his junior driver, stating that they did not have the ‘balls’ to make the move for Ocon. It was the first time in ages he seemed genuinely angry.
His anger was wholly justified as Mercedes is looking to groom a future driver who has shown an obvious talent and delivered results when it comes to racing. Ocon won the GP3 title in 2015, after which he joined the German team.
He entered F1 in 2016 with Manor and moved to a permanent seat with Force India, a Mercedes engine customer, in 2017. He finished 26 consecutive races before retiring at the Brazilian GP last year and pushed his much more experienced teammate, Sergio Perez, resulting in several clashes across the season.
The assurance comes on the back of the confirmation of Mercedes parting ways with another junior driver, Pascal Wehrlein. It was thought that they could not give him the same promise of an F1 future.
However, all may not be lost for Wehrlein as he has emerged as one of the shock favourites for a vacant Toro Rosso seat for next year. It is thought that he will be partnered by either of Daniil Kvyat or Brendon Hartley.
Wehrlein was another hot prospect for Mercedes but the musical chairs in F1 meant that he was left out in 2018, following which he rejoined the DTM racing series, of which he is a former champion. Toro Rosso could yet save his F1 career.