Mercedes confirms Esteban Ocon in reserve role for 2019 F1 season
Mercedes has officially announced Esteban Ocon as its reserve driver for the 2019 F1 season after Toto Wolff's reveal in the Abu Dhabi press conference.
After potentially losing his seat to Lance Stroll in the new Racing Point Force India outfit, Ocon has been relegated to a reserve role with Mercedes for the 2019 F1 season as confirmed by the team and Wolff in Abu Dhabi GP.
The Frenchman was in line to replace Carlos Sainz in Renault until the seat was taken by Daniel Ricciardo which put the Frenchman in a spot of bother especially with Force India being bought by Lawrence Stroll with the help of Sergio Perez.
The Mexican's stay was pretty much sorted with Ocon then linked to McLaren as well. However, the team opted for Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz which meant Ocon only had Williams as its last hope.
The Grove-based team took the other Mercedes junior, Geroge Russell alongside Robert Kubica with Ocon being left with only a reserve role with Mercedes. "The plans are pretty clear," said Wolff to the media.
"He is going to be pretty close to the Mercedes team - he will be our reserve driver and third driver. We hope to do the odd test with him, we are looking at pre-season and in-season but it's not sorted out yet.
"He will do a lot of time in the simulator to make sure that he is ready." In the past seasons, Mercedes has not given runs to any other driver apart from the regular ones. The only time they tested young drivers were during the mandatory days.
The Frenchman will not be able to drive under the young driver programme if he is to test in the pre-season or in-season tests which means the team will have to replace him with either Lewis Hamilton and or Valtteri Bottas.
The news immediately puts pressure on Bottas to out-perform or give Hamilton a run for the money in 2019 with Ocon waiting in the wings for a race seat in 2020. No assurances has been given to Ocon though for the 2020 season thus far.
On Thursday, Ocon said: "Definitely I will be around in the F1 paddock and trying to get as much mileage as possible in a Formula One car next year. Me and Mercedes, we see great opportunities for me to come back in 2020.
"So, hopefully that will be the case and hopefully I will be back even stronger than I am now. No, assurances [on 2020 drive]. You never have but as I said, we seen great opportunities so hopefully there will be."
[Note: This story was also written by me on Formula Rapida]