Esteban Ocon will return to the Formula 1 grid in 2020, having signed a multi-year deal with Renault F1 Team.
The Frenchman has spent the year on the sidelines with Mercedes AMG Motorsport as the team’s reserve driver. Prior to 2019, Ocon raced with Force India in 2017, which became Racing Point in 2018. He lost his drive at the team when Lance Stroll was signed on for 2019.
Ocon was linked to a potential return to F1 in 2020 with multiple different teams. Mercedes were looking at their options between Ocon or current Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas. The team decided that they would stick with Bottas for the 2020 season. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said that if Bottas was to remain at the team, it would mean Ocon could go out on loan or join another team for multiple years.
The move would see the Normandy-born driver partner alongside Daniel Ricciardo for the season, leaving Nico Hülkenberg without a drive for next year. Ocon feels proud that he will return to the Renault family again, having spent 2016 as a test driver before he made his F1 debut with Manor Racing that year.
“First and foremost, I am very proud to become a Renault driver. I have grown up at Enstone, starting with Lotus in 2010 and then with Renault,” said Ocon.
I am very attached to this team and everyone who works there; they are the ones who opened the doors of top level motorsport for me.
“Secondly, I am pleased that a team with big ambitions has entrusted me with the opportunity to once again demonstrate my skills at the highest level of F1.
“It is a responsibility I take very seriously. The confidence they have in me to help the progression of the team is a very positive pressure and I look forward to giving the best of myself.”
The move from Ocon would see him reunite with Renault, the team he joined at the beginning of the 2016 season when the French car manufacturer announced its return to F1 as a works team. Ocon served as the reserve driver with Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer as the two drivers.
Ocon put up impressive results throughout his early years in F1 with Force India – finishing all but one race during his first full season in the sport. His season full year saw him display an impressive qualifying session in a dry-wet Spa-Francorchamps, where he clinched third place behind the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
Renault’s managing director Cyril Abiteboul believes Ocon possesses a natural talent and feels very happy to have his services for the next two seasons.
“We are very happy to work with Esteban for the next two seasons. Over his F1 career Esteban has experienced the highs and lows of the sport, and fully understood the need to seize every possible chance,” said Abiteboul.
“In addition to lending his natural talent, Esteban’s aim will be to focus his natural energy and drive, both of which have been intensified by a year away from racing. It is then up to us to infuse them into the next phase of the team’s progress.
“He has shown his ability to score points, has great professionalism on and off the track, plus his recent experience as reserve driver to the current world champions will be a valuable asset to the development of our entire team.”
Ocon’s arrival at Renault in 2020 will mean the departure of Hülkenberg, who joined the team back in 2017. The German has spent three seasons with the Enstone team and achieved a career-best seventh overall in the drivers’ championship last year.
But a challenging 2019 has left Renault lying sixth overall in the constructors’ championship, behind the likes of McLaren F1 Team and Toro Rosso Honda. Hülkenberg has been linked with a move with the Haas F1 Team, but it is unclear whether team boss Guenther Steiner will want to keep Romain Grosjean on for next year.
Abiteboul thanks Hülkenberg for his services in the three years he has been with the team and hopes that he can deliver and help the team push in the second stage of the championship.
“I wish to thank Nico for his phenomenal involvement and massive contribution to our progress over the past three seasons. When Nico decided to join us, the team was ninth,” commented Abiteboul.
“He brought us to fourth place last year, and was classified seventh in the drivers’ championship. The imminent end of his contract made this decision a difficult one as Nico has been a pillar of this progress.
“The first part of this season has been more challenging, but I know we can count on him and deliver together throughout the second half of the year.”