Shortly after their first announcement this morning regarding the contract of driver Rio Haryanto being terminated, the Manor Racing Team also confirmed that current Renault Sport F1 Team Reserve driver and Mercedes AMG PETRONAS backed youngster, Esteban Ocon will replace the Indonesian and partner driver Pascal Wehrlein for the remainder of the 2016 season. The Frenchman has the required backing to allow him to immediately step in as Haryanto’s replacement, as of the next round in Belgium.
Ocon, who secured the European Formula 3 title back in 2014, in a championship that contained a talented field of drivers, including Max Verstappen, then went on to become GP3 champion in 2015, highlighting his strong potential as a rising talent. He has also already had a taste of Formula 1 action, where he impressed management, when taking part in the in-season test at Silverstone for Mercedes earlier this year, as well as participating in a number of FP1 sessions for the Renault Sport F1 team.
The Frenchman is currently contesting the DTM Series with Mercedes in 2016, and although there are no clashing races on the two calendars, the 19-year-old will drop his German Touring Car campaign to concentrate his efforts on competing in the highest level of motorsport.
Ocon was clearly over the moon to be handed such a fantastic opportunity, advising that he is ready for the challenge and also tweeting his elation to fans on Twitter earlier today.
“I’m thrilled that I’ll be making my Grand Prix debut with Manor Racing later this month, and at Spa, of all circuits, which is the next best thing to my home race.
“I’m ready for this exciting step up, thanks to the experience I’ve gained as a Formula 1 Reserve Driver this season. I’d like to thank Renault Sport F1 Team and Mercedes-Benz for working together to make this happen, and to Manor Racing for the opportunity, which I’m going to grab with both hands.
“I’ve visited the Manor Technical Centre already, for my seat fit and to meet with the wider team, so we’ll be ready to hit the ground running after the summer break. They’ve done a great job this season and I’m excited that I’ve been tasked with helping them to build on that progress. I can’t wait to get started!”
Dave Ryan, Racing Director at Manor, was equally overjoyed with the prospect that their new signing brings to the team.
“We are very pleased to welcome Esteban to Manor Racing for the remainder of the season. He is clearly one of the rising stars of F1, shining in his Reserve Driver role with Renault, while also competing in the DTM with Mercedes-AMG this year.
“Our team has made significant strides in 2016, including finishing in the points for the first time in Austria last month. We need to maintain our pace of development in order to achieve our ambitions, not only for this season but also for the longer-term, so the calibre of a replacement is key.
“We’re confident that when Esteban makes his Grand Prix debut in Spa, we will have a very potent line-up with which to take the fight to our immediate competitors for the rest of the season.”
Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Toto Wolff, was also pleased that one of the German squad’s young protégés has been given the opportunity to advance his career further.
“We are very pleased that this opportunity has opened up for Esteban, that Manor has again had the confidence to give a chance to a promising young talent and that the good collaboration between Mercedes-Benz and Renault has allowed this to come together.
“We have seen this year that, in the right circumstances, the Manor Racing car is capable of points. Manor is just the right environment for a young driver to get his first experience of F1: a professional, small team that is on a positive upward trend and where the driver can make a real difference.
“Esteban did an exceptional job in the works Mercedes at the Silverstone test and we are excited to see him take his first steps in an F1 race environment.”