Nico Rosberg has claimed that Formula One junior driver programmes can be excellent for the sport if implemented correctly, but has slammed the potential pitfalls of it, describing the situation surrounding Esteban Ocon and his situation for the 2019 season as “terrible”.
Ocon is a member of Mercedes’ junior driver programme and has been an impressive performer with Force India over the past couple of seasons.
However, his position within the team is under threat by Lance Stroll, who is poised to join from Williams following his father Lawrence’s acquisition of the team in the summer, which saved it from bankruptcy.
The likes of McLaren, Toro Rosso, and Williams have been mentioned as a place for Ocon, but his relationship with Mercedes means that teams are unwilling to develop who they consider to be a member of the Silver Arrows squad, as confirmed previously by Red Bull chief Christian Horner.
Rosberg believes this presents the major flaw of junior driver programmes.
“So many top drivers have had the necessary support because the F1 teams have got involved like they never used to – so that I think is a good thing,” Rosberg said.
“The F1 teams themselves are taking the initiative, and supporting very young drivers, so I don’t think it is such a disastrous situation.
“Maybe it is a little bit worse than it used to be, but we generally need to keep an eye on it – because a situation like Ocon shouldn’t happen. That is terrible.
“He is such a sensation. The guy has been driving so well, and he doesn’t have a drive. That is really terrible, so that must be avoided.”
Many are understandably gutted that a driver of Ocon’s calibre is missing out on an F1 seat. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff has admitted that Ocon’s situation was precarious. Interestingly, he also said that the circumstances surrounding fellow Mercedes junior, George Russell, were not as serious.
Only recently, the team were forced to let go of German youngster, Pascal Wehrlein from their programme. Now, Ocon will be more fired up than ever to use these last six races to prove his mettle.