Mercedes keeps Ocon in junior roster

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Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff confirms that the German manufacturer has taken up the option to retain the services of GP3 Series title contender Esteban Ocon for 2016.

The Frenchman used to be part of the Lotus junior team and joined the Mercedes fold at the start of the current campaign.

Ocon won the 2014 FIA European Formula 3 championship as a rookie, and could repeat the same feat in GP3 after reclaiming the championship lead with pole position for the season finale in Abu Dhabi. The 19-year-old has been dovetailing his ART Grand Prix commitment with a test and reserve role in DTM, and has already sampled Formule One machinery on several occasions, including completing two in-season days of testing with Force India.

“We’ve taken up the option on him because he has been with us now, or has been following the DTM team for a while, has been the test driver in DTM and integrated well,” Wolff said of Mercedes’ decision.

“He’s doing a very good job in GP3 as well and he’s somebody we’d very much like to have in the family. This is why we’ve exercised the option.”

Ocon’s name has been linked with a DTM seat for 2016, while fellow Mercedes protégé Pascal Wehrlein remains in the running to land one of the final two F1 drives currently available at Manor.

The 21-year-old German recently said chances were 50/50 after he became the youngest champion ever in the Germany-based touring car series. Should Wehrlein make his F1 debut, Ocon could step up to replace him as Mercedes reserve driver, though Wolff warns nothing has been finalised yet.

“[Taking up Ocon's option] doesn’t mean that we’ve found a solution for Pascal.

“The current driver market is a bit difficult because most of the teams have already announced their drivers and it needs to be the right deal - but having taken up Esteban we are conscious that we need to find a suitable programme for both of them.

“It could well mean that it could eventually end up for both of them in a testing role, in a reserve driver role and in a DTM role - so it’s not done yet.”

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