Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport‘s team principal Toto Wolff says he would not get in the way of Mercedes junior driver Esteban Ocon if he chooses to join the Renault Sport Formula One Team in 2019.
The Frenchman has been linked to joining the French team for the 2019 season, replacing Carlos Sainz Jr. who is on loan to Renault from Red Bull.
Ocon is part of the Mercedes junior programme who races with Sahara Force India F1 Team, who entered administration last weekend. He was with Renault back in 2016 as the team’s test driver in their return as a constructor before joining Manor Racing midway through the year to kick off his F1 career.
He’s known to have significant links with Renault for next year, having missed out on a seat with Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport after the team re-signed Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
Ocon currently is under contract with Mercedes for multiple years to come, even if he does join Renault for 2019, allowing the German manufacturer keep him whilst allowing him to race for more competitive teams.
In an interview with Crash.Net, Toto Wolff says that Mercedes, who have a strong partnership with Renault, would not get in the way if Ocon has a chance to progress up the grid with a more competitive team.
“We picked Esteban up when Gravity fell apart, and the first team that he was actually associated with was Renault. We at the time had just started our junior programme and it just felt right with Pascal (Wehrlein) and Esteban to give them a go,” said Wolff.
“To date we are trying to set them a path that eventually will make them very successful long term; put then a position to be world champions maybe one day.
“But with Valtteri and Lewis we have a line-up that is stable, that works for us, and at that stage there is no opportunity within Mercedes.
“If has an opportunity somewhere else to be successful as a racing driver and another team or constructor to be successful, we wouldn’t want to stand in the way.”