Esteban Ocon may be in for more bad news as Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff, has stated that the Frenchman is not guaranteed of a race seat at the team in the season after next. He’ll fulfill test and reserve driver duties for them next year.
The previous race in Brazil saw a lot of drama as the duo of Ocon and Verstappen clashed on and off track, which cost the latter a race win. That incident had led Red Bull chief, Dr. Helmut Marko, to claim that his driver was denied victory by a driver already promised a race seat at Mercedes in 2020.
When asked whether there lay any truth to that claim, Wolff told Finnish newspaper C More, “No, it’s not true. It’s a waste of time to comment even for one second on what Dr Marko says.”
Ocon could have still had one final chance of getting an F1 drive for next year as Mercedes’ engine customer, Williams, had one vacancy but they confirmed Robert Kubica on the eve of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend on Thursday.
The team is going through a bad phase technically and financially and could not afford manage the financial package needed to lure Ocon. “We knew that Williams had financial problems and that they had to find a certain budget,” he told France’s L’Equipe.
“But it’s not the end of the world. I will still be always in the paddock, still working in formula one, with my goal to return in 2020.”
Ocon is seen as one of the most talented young drivers in Formula 1 and his connection with Mercedes helped him to get to this level back in 2016 with Manor initially and was then given a full-time contract in 2017 by Force India.
However, those same connections hampered his chances of securing a drive next year as none of the non-Mercedes affiliated teams were willing to take him on a temporary deal.