Esteban Ocon was signed by the Renault F1 team to replace Nico Hulkenberg for the 2020 season. The Frenchman will partner seasoned veteran Daniel Ricciardo for the Enstone-based team.
Ocon started his career with the Manor Racing team when the Mercedes junior driver was drafted by the team mid-season in 2016 to replace Rio Haryanto. He was then promoted to the then Force India team in 2017 where he partnered Sergio Perez for two seasons.
Ocon was involved in many heated on-track battles with Perez in the two seasons. The Frenchman made a good impression though he lost the intra-team battle with Perez in both the seasons.
When the Stroll family took over the ownership of the Force India team, Lance Stroll replaced Ocon at the newly renamed Racing Point F1 team. Ocon had to sit on the sidelines as a Mercedes reserve driver in 2019.
Ocon returns back to the Renault F1 team with which he was associated as a test driver at various times before 2016. He joins Ricciardo who made a shock move to Renault from the Red Bull Racing team in 2019.
The Renault team boss Cyril Abiteboul thinks the Ocon signing will add a new dynamic to the Renault F1 team. Abiteboul speaking to Motorsport.com said: “It’s another dynamic. He will push us in a different way, a new energy, a new aggressivity, in my opinion a fully positive one, coming also with a different set of experiences, having worked with Mercedes.
“So it’s good, but at the end of the day we can do lots of things with drivers, but what needs to be better is obviously the racing car.”
In 2019, the Renault F1 team finished fifth in the constructors’ championship. It was a disappointing season after the major signing of Ricciardo who finished only in ninth position in the drivers’ championship.
Abiteboul thinks that the Ocon signing will bring a more positive effect for the French team. He said: “I think it’s slightly different. He’s still in the construction phase. First, he’s coming back to racing, which is good news.
“Hopefully he will have a better car than the one he had last time he drove, so it’s a positive dynamic for us when a lot of people attribute our bad 2019 season to the decision with Daniel, and his season with us, as more of a negative dynamic.
“I can see more positive things spinning out of Esteban. it’s not that Daniel was negative, because I praise what Daniel has pushed the team to do.
“But he put pressure on the team with the expectations he created in the media sphere by joining the team. It’s what we wanted, but de facto he create a huge amount of expectation, way above what we promised.
“And by doing that it has led to a reaction from the team when we saw we were not at the required level.”
The Renault F1 team will hope both their drivers will push each other and help the team to move up and get closer to the top teams in 2020.