Esteban Ocon maintains there is still respect between he and Red Bull Racing‘s Max Verstappen, despite there being animosity between the two when they last raced together.
In 2018, Ocon’s last stint in Formula 1, the Austrian and Frenchman clashed, during the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend at Interlagos – both on and off the circuit.
In an attempt to pass Verstappen and unlap himself, causing them both to spin off track, leading to an altercation between the two after the race, after the Dutchman lost the lead.
There is every chance that their rivalry from childhood could resurface this year, as Ocon has secured a seat with Renault F1 Team.
Nevertheless, Ocon is adamant that 2008 will not repeat itself, their rivalry remaining professional.
“We are professional drivers, so the important thing is not to create any issues and what happened last time on track, happened on the track and we have to think separate,” he said, speaking to ESPN.
“But, of course, there was some tension back in the days when we were racing really closely, but we always had respect between each other and that’s important.”
Asked the reason for this racing respect, he said: “Karting.
“We were racing really closely in karting as soon as we met, but also with Charles [Leclerc] it was probably even more fiery with him.
“When I left karting they were still racing together and it was fireworks a few times in karting and then in Formula 3 we were racing for the title.
“It was a big rivalry like it has always been in any sport between two guys.
“But as I said, the most important is to think on-track and think off-track. Off-track has to be respectful and that’s how it is.”
The Frenchman will be paired with experienced Austrian racer Daniel Ricciardo for this season.
“I don’t really know him personally, but from what I heard he is a really cool guy, so it will be great to team up with him,” he said of the Australian.
“Also I will have things to learn from him, so it’s going to be cool.”