Renault have admitted to the fact that Ocon being a Mercedes academy driver went against him when they were considering their options to fill the second seat next season. They eventually signed Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull.
Ocon was being heavily linked to Renault and Mercedes had also seemingly given their approval for the move, but it did not work out. Renault boss, Cyril Abiteboul, even said that he was a ‘perfect fit.’
“It was a difficult decision,” Abiteboul told Motorsport.com. “I think Esteban [Ocon] was a great fit.
“We’ve been extremely honest in our decision with people around Esteban – as always with these things the discussions are never with the driver – but in the present case it was a bit awkward because it was a competitor, Mercedes.”
“And I have to say that’s something that was on the back of our minds, the fact that we still again had to discuss with a competitor regarding a driver.
Renault signed Carlos Sainz Jr. on loan from Red Bull but it was not a fellow engine manufacturer as is the case with Mercedes. They still had to contend with the fact that they had to consult Red Bull and not make their own decisions.
Renault revealed that they did not want to face a similar situation, especially at a time when the team is on the up, in terms of development and performance.
“We were just coming out of that with Carlos, with a positive and a negative associated. I have to accept the fact that without discussing with Red Bull we would not have had Carlos this year, and I think it was great to have Carlos, so I think on balance we still did something good last year,” said Abiteboul.
“But having to do that again, one more year or two more years, 2019 and ‘20, in years we are supposed, if we are to comply with our road map, to start competing with top teams.”
“Being dependent on that top team, a competitor, for a very important resource, it was feeling a little bit awkward.”
Ocon himself had stated that Mercedes will be where he would eventually end up, which was a clear indicator that he would not have signed a long-term deal with any other team.
The explanation is understandable when looked at from Renault’s point of view. Had they signed Ocon, there was a possibility of him moving to Mercedes in the near future, which would have them looking at yet another replacement.
Constant changes is not something any team would prefer and Renault are no different. They are looking more competitive than ever since re-entering the grid in 2016 and will hope to carry that form and challenge for wins soon.