In the midst of a chaotic silly season, Ocon has found himself staring at the possibility of being forced to sit on the sidelines in 2019, with a number of drivers switches meaning he is out of favour for a top seat.
The Frenchman is believed to be leaving Force India following the team’s takeover by Lawrence Stroll, who is keen to put his son and Williams driver Lance in one of the two seats amid Williams’ struggles this year.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff admitted Ocon’s situation had become “complicated” and is even willing to drop him from his Mercedes ties to aid his prospects of a spot on the grid.
While Horner credits the Brackley-based outfit junior scheme for its support to up and coming drivers, he suggests the programme is now more of a hazard given the lack of seats in F1.
“For what is relatively little investment by Mercedes it’s been to their merit that they’ve helped these guys to get into F1,” Horner said. “But now it seems to be almost an anchor being a Mercedes driver.
“Being on a recall mechanism isn’t attractive to a vast majority of teams.
“The crazy situation is you’ve got a driver like Ocon who might end up without a seat next year.”
Red Bull has been known to invest in its junior drivers over the years, with a series of successes from early promotions to its works team. Horner says Mercedes should have followed Red Bull’s foundation and taken a risk with Ocon to solve his future.
“It’s very easy to go with something known,” he added. “And there’s far more perceived risk in taking an unknown quantity or a junior, and I think we’ve demonstrated on numerous occasions that it pays off.
“We’ve had a very successful junior programme, and Red Bull has a junior team, and has invested in that. It’s paid dividends with Seb, Daniel and Max, and we’ll see with Pierre Gasly [who replaces Ricciardo in 2019].
“And it’s given numerous others opportunities, such as Carlos Sainz.”