Esteban Ocon born on the 17th September 1996 is a French racing driver currently competing in Formula One for Renault, racing under the French flag. He made his Formula One debut for Manor Racing in the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix, replacing Rio Haryanto. Ocon was a part of the Mercedes-Benz driver development programme until his move to Renault.
Ocon’s first experience of a Formula One car was on 22 October 2014, driving the Lotus E20 as part of a two-day test for Lotus F1. A month later, he made his Grand Prix weekend debut for Lotus during the first practice session at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
In May 2015, Ocon was called up by Force India to drive at the post-race test in Barcelona, after Pascal Wehrlein was forced to withdraw due to illness. Prior to him claiming the GP3 title, it was announced that Ocon would enter the junior programme of the Mercedes F1 team. In February 2016, it was announced that Ocon would act as reserve driver for the Renault Sport F1 team for the 2016 season. He took part in four FP1 sessions for the team.
On 10 August 2016, Rio Haryanto was dropped from the backmarker Manor Racing team after his sponsors had failed to meet their contractual obligations. Ocon was named as his replacement for the second half of the season, driving alongside Pascal Wehrlein. Ocon made his Formula One debut at the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix, finishing 16th. He earned his best result of 12th in the chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix, dropping out of the points on the final lap.
Force India (2017–2018)
On 10 November 2016, Force India announced that they had signed Ocon for the 2017 season as part of his multi-year contract with Mercedes, with Sergio Pérez as his new teammate. Ocon scored his first Formula One point in his first race for Force India in Australia. He finished 10th in the first three races of the season.
He then finished 7th at the Russian GP, and continued the points streak with a 5th place at the Spanish GP. He stood at 8th in the drivers’ championship following the Austrian Grand Prix. Following that, he recorded 8th place in front of his teammate. He followed up with 9th in Hungary. In Belgium, Ocon was involved in a controversial collision with teammate Pérez, ending Pérez’s race. His streak of finishing 27 consecutive races ended at the Brazilian Grand Prix where he had an accident with Romain Grosjean after they collided on the first lap of the race. He finished his first full season with 87 points and 8th in the championship after an 8th-place finish in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Ocon continued alongside Pérez at Force India for 2018, in a season that saw numerous incidents between the two teammates. Ocon’s first points of the season came with a 10th-place finish in Bahrain. In Azerbaijan, he was involved in a first-lap collision with Kimi Räikkönen that ended his race. Teammate Pérez would go on to claim a podium finish. Ocon retired with an oil leak at the next race in Spain. He then recorded 6th and 9th place finishes in Monaco and Canada respectively, but then retired from his home race in France after a first-lap collision. Three more points finishes followed before the summer break.
By the summer break, Force India was in severe financial trouble and faced a winding-up order from HMRC. A group of creditors including teammate Pérez took legal action against the team and put it into administration, saving the team from collapse and the jobs of its employees. The assets of the team were purchased by a consortium of investors led by Canadian businessman Lawrence Stroll, father of Williams driver Lance Stroll. Some suspected that Lance Stroll would now soon join Racing Point Force India, replacing Ocon due to Pérez’s role in saving the team. However, the new team confirmed that Ocon and Pérez would continue with them for the rest of the season. It was later revealed that Ocon had an “informal agreement” to join Renault for 2019 before the team made a shock signing in Daniel Ricciardo, now leaving Ocon’s future in doubt.
At the new team’s first race in Belgium, Ocon produced excellent drives to qualify 3rd and finish 6th, the best starting position of his career. Another 6th place followed in Italy. In Singapore, Ocon and Pérez collided on the first lap, causing Ocon to crash into a wall and ending his race. The team described the collision as “unnacceptable” and banned the drivers from racing each other. Pérez apologised for his role in the accident. Two 9th places followed, before Ocon was disqualified from 8th place at the United States Grand Prix after his car was found to have exceeded fuel flow limits.
At the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix, Ocon hit race leader Max Verstappen while trying to unlap himself, damaging both cars. Both drivers were able to continue racing, and Ocon received a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for the incident. They argued just after the race (which Verstappen finished in second place) and Verstappen and Ocon pushed each other several times. Both drivers were summoned by the FIA and Verstappen was given two days of public service “at the discretion of the FIA” for making deliberate physical contact with Ocon.
Ocon finished the season in 12th place in the championship with 49 points.
On 23 November 2018, it was announced that Ocon would join Mercedes as their reserve driver for 2019 after it became clear that he would be replaced at Racing Point by Lance Stroll—an outcome that was finally confirmed a week later. Ocon would not take part in a Grand Prix weekend during the year. He was a contender to take the second Mercedes seat alongside Lewis Hamilton in 2020, however the team decided to continue with Valtteri Bottas.
On 29 August 2019, it was announced that Ocon would race for Renault starting in 2020, on a two-year contract. His Renault debut marked his return to Formula One as a full-time driver. He replaced Nico Hülkenberg, and partnered with Daniel Ricciardo.