Esteban Ocon is returning to Enstone, with a crew he knows well! A reserve driver for the stable in 2016 and, prior to that, a member of the Lotus development programme, Ocon will team up with Daniel Ricciardo in 2020 as Renault F1 Team principal driver.
Ocon has signed on for several years with the team headed by Cyril Abiteboul, who declares himself “very pleased to be working with Esteban again for the next two seasons”. Meanwhile 22-year-old Ocon emphasises his “pride in racing for Renault as principal driver”. As it happens, he is the first French driver to sit in this race seat since the team’s 2016 return to Formula 1 Grand Prix. The previous one of his countrymen to wear the Renault F1 Team livery was Romain Grosjean, in 2009.
Signing to the Renault F1 Team is the next logical step in Evreux-born Ocon’s upward career trajectory. After his early success in karting, he swept the Lotus F1 Junior Team (forerunner of the Renault Sport Academy) to the podium right from his first season racing single-seaters. Finishing third in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 in 2013, Ocon went on to win the FIA European Formula 3 Championships in 2014 and the GP3 Series in 2015. From there it was a short step to Formula 1 – at Renault.
In 2016 Ocon became reserve driver for the Renault F1 Team when the marque made its comeback to this high-profile category of motor sport. He left Renault halfway through the season to debut in Formula One racing at the wheel of a Manor in the Belgian Grand Prix. Aged just 19 years and 345 days, he was the youngest French driver to ever start an F1 race – a record he holds to this day.
Ocon’s early promise propelled him to principal driver in the Force India team for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. He took over from Nico Hülkenberg, another rising star who was moving on – to the Renault F1 Team. Today Ocon replaces Hülkenberg again, when he returns to his first stable after spending 2019 as reserve driver for Mercedes AMG.
In two and a half seasons, Esteban Ocon has racked up 50 F1 Grand Prix starts, finishing in the points in 28 races and only retiring on 6 occasions. His standout performances include qualifying 3rd in Belgium in 2018, finishing 5th in Mexico in 2017, and coming 8th in the 2017 World Championships.