Esteban Ocon will assume the role of Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport third and reserve driver for 2019, following confirmation from Toto Wolff at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that he does not have a race seat.
Ocon has been left without a drive for 2019 after losing his spot at the Racing Point Force India F1 Team to Lance Stroll, although the Canadian is yet to be officially announced. Yesterday, Robert Kubica‘s move to Williams Martini Racing proved to be the final nail in Ocon’s hopes for a race seat next year.
Wolff, Mercedes boss and Ocon’s manager, stated that Ocon will become the works team’s third and reserve driver, behind Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, fulfilling testing and simulator duties.
“The plans are pretty clear,” Wolff said. “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, 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.”
With Bottas’s recently extended contract only running until the end of the 2019 season, there is a chance that Ocon could find himself in the Mercedes seat for ’20, but the 22-year-old said that Mercedes have given him “no assurances” over this fact.
“Definitely I will be around in the Formula 1 paddock and trying to get as much mileage as possible in a Formula 1 car next year,” Ocon added.
“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.”
Earlier this month, the Frenchman swatted away rumours of him racing outside of Formula 1 next year, believing that there would be no “experience to gain” in doing so. Verizon Indycar Series teams Dale Coyne Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsport were believed to have expressed serious interest in his services. In Brazil two weeks’ ago, Ocon remained coy over said talks.
“There has been talks that I could race in many different places and I won’t go in details.
“But [Mercedes and I] are choosing not to do that.”