Esteban Ocon, Renault, Circuit de Catalunya, 2016

Esteban Ocon

Esteban Ocon biography

Esteban Ocon was only 17 years old when he won the European Formula Three championship in 2014. Yet his even younger F3 rival Max Verstappen gained a place in Formula One more quickly, making his debut with Toro Rosso the following season.

Born: 17th September 1996
Birthplace: Evreux, France
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Ocon had reached F3 after two season in Formula Renault 2.0, taking a strong second in the Eurocup in 2013 by winning two of the final three races. While Verstappen took a few rounds to come good and was hampered by some engine problems, Ocon put the championship beyond doubt with relentless points-scoring. In a 17-race period he finished in the top two 15 times.

After that Ocon made what appeared to be a sideways move into GP3. He had impressed Lotus in a one-off F1 practice outing for the team at the end of 2014, but needed to keep the results coming to sustain the interest of the top F1 teams.

In GP3 he again achieved remarkable consistency, achieving nine consecutive second place finishes in a category where alternate races featured partially reversed grids. Having won nine times in F3 he managed just a single victory in GP3, but 14 podiums from 18 races allowed him to pip Luca Ghiotto to the crown in a tense finale at Yas Marina.

Meanwhile other developments had played in the French driver’s favour. Renault were poised to take over Lotus and would surely be on the market for a driver of Ocon’s skills and background. However it was Mercedes, stung by their failure to get Verstappen’s name on a contract, who moved first.

For Ocon this meant a deal to drive in the DTM in 2016: a route few drivers had taken directly to F1. But Mercedes were willing to let Renault run him in F1 practice sessions, which he did on four occasions before the summer break.

He also had a chance to test for Mercedes, adding yet further to his experience with F1 hardware. He had already driven a Ferrari F10 as a prize for his F3 victory and tested separately for the Mercedes-powered Force India team.

Ocon’s first campaign in the DTM had, not unexpectedly, got off to a more difficult start in the highly specialised category. But as events transpired he would not complete it.

Rio Haryanto’s bakers had promised Manor €15 million for his race seat but as the season passed its halfway point only half of the money had been paid. Ocon was therefore handed the opportunity to take over and make his F1 race debut in the Belgian Grand Prix.

A nine-race stint in the least competitive car in the field was not much o fa chance to demonstrate what he was capable of, particularly given his initial discomfort with an ill-fitting seat.

But he fared increasingly well alongside fellow Mercedes junior driver Pascal Wehrlein, and impressed in the season’s most difficult race. Ocon kept his Manor in the points places until the final laps at a soaked Interlagos.

A spirited drive in the final race included clashes with Wehrlein and Sauber’s Felipe Nasr. But Ocon had already done enough to secure a place on the grid for 2017 at Force India.

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