The men behind the Renault F1 return



The carrier of the tricolore among the key drivers at Renault, 19-year-old Esteban Ocon is one of the brightest stars of French motorsport. Born in Evreux, Ocon was noticed in 2013 when he finished third in the Formula Renault 2.0 championship Eurocup (behind Pierre Gasly and Oliver Rowland) and joined the junior team at Lotus F1 after being spotted by Eric Boullier, who ensured he joined the Gravity management structure.

A year later, in European F3, he leads the standings for a long time ahead of a certain Max Verstappen. Ocon eventually wins the title, which gives him the right to an F1 test with Ferrari at Fiorano. He also gets behind the wheel of the Lotus E22 during the first free practice session of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and during the post-season tests.

In 2015, with Gasly and Alex Lynn getting the DAMS seats in GP2 (Ocon coveted a drive) and given the inability of Gravity to bring together the necessary budget for a car during the season - allied to the appointment of Jolyon Palmer as the third driver at Lotus - Ocon's F1 future seems under threat. Not for long.

Crowned with the title in F3, he joined ART to compete for the GP3 championship, while being tentatively integrated in to the chain of young talent at Mercedes, driven by Toto Wolff. Named a test driver in DTM, he also gets F1 track time driving for Mercedes customers Force India in testing in Barcelona and Austria. In GP3, while caught by Luca Ghiotto mid-season, thanks to his consistency Ocon secures the championship in a final-round thriller at the Yas Marina Circuit.

In November 2015, Mercedes exercises its option and makes him an official test driver for its F1 team. However, with Pascal Wehrlein also among the Mercedes driver pool and struggling for an F1 role, Frederic Vasseur (close to Mercedes in DTM and former boss of Ocon in GP3) manages to convince the team to share its rising star with Renault. As a result, Ocon joins Renault Sport Racing while remaining a member of the junior program at Mercedes-Benz.