Ocon recalls personal low in F1 when 'I cried in the parking lot'

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Esteban Ocon is a Grand Prix winner and one of the most established young talents on F1's grid. But in 2019, the Frenchman's prospects looked grim.

Despite a solid track record during his formative years in F1, Ocon had found himself without a drive at the end of 2018 following Racing Point's decision to recruit Lance Stroll - the son of then new team owner Lawrence Stroll – to race alongside Sergio Perez.

As a Mercedes contracted driver managed by Toto Wolff, Ocon was assigned a reserve role with the German outfit and promised a comprehensive testing programme for 2019.

But at the first race that year in Melbourne, Ocon was struck with a bitter blow.

"It was definitely tough and I had some very low moments mentally," said the Alpine charger as he recllaed his 2019 non-season on the latest Beyond the Grid podcast.

"I think I will remember that one from Australia. I got there at the first race in 2019, and we were supposed to have quite a big test programme.

"I was supposed to drive the car quite a bit, and when I got to Australia, I got told I was not going to drive the car for the next six months."

Ocon tried to put on a brave face, but when he was left on his own, the pain sunk in.

"That was quite a big hit and I remember leaving the Melbourne track, going to the rental car and I cried in the parking lot.

"So it was definitely a lot of low moments... I don't have much problem to sleep, but I remember that night, that was not the best sleep."

As the 2019 campaign unfolded, the dream of racing for Mercedes the following year just drifted off into the distance as the Brackley squad committed to keeping Valtteri Bottas paired with Lewis Hamilton.

But Wolff, in charge of Ocon's interests, also committed to finding Ocon a race seat for 2020.

"I was very well looked after [at Mercedes] from James Vowles, from Toto, from Gwen Lagrue, you know. They were looking after me and trying to find solutions," Ocon remembered.

"Toto was quite clear and he said, 'You will drive in 2020.' And I said, 'How can you be so sure Toto?' And he said, 'You will see'...

"I didn't want to believe him because I didn't want to be disappointed, but it's been quite a few times that when he spoke about something, it actually happened.

"And it did happen again. I got a drive in 2020 – not in Mercedes but in Renault – and that was the start of something new for me."

Ocon scored his best result with Renault in the season's penultimate round at Sakhir where finished P2, scoring his first podium in F1.

But last season, the 25-year-old went one better and enjoyed his first 'jour de gloire' in F1 when he triumphed with the Enstone squad at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

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