Fri. Oct 22nd, 2021

Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi has confirmed the team is already in discussions with Esteban Ocon to extend his current contract into next season and potentially beyond.

Ocon has excelled so far this year, more than matching his new two-time world champion team-mate Fernando Alonso and stepping up a gear now he is in his second year with the French outfit.

The French driver, who is managed by Toto Wolff, is part of the Mercedes driver development programme but Wolff said recently that his future will be decided by Alpine rather than Mercedes making any claim.

Asked about Alpine’s current plans, Rossi said: “It was very graceful of Toto to say that. It is indeed something we are considering. Esteban is doing everything to make me consider keeping him in the team.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t think about it, so obviously at the moment we are already engaged in some conversations with his agent, his management team, Mercedes at large.

“I’m not surprised by Esteban. We knew he is extremely talented, he has been racing against most of the drivers when he was younger and he is always beating them, most of the time, so I knew he had a lot of talent.

“He starts having good references in the team [and] we made some modifications to his own team and to the way we build up the race weekends. The guy has talent, it shows, and I think he is where he should be.”

Having made his F1 debut in 2016 for the now-defunct Manor Racing team, Ocon has since raced for Force India and spent a year as Mercedes reserve driver before finding his place at Renault, now re-named Alpine.

The 24-year-old has one podium in 71 starts so far, but the other high-flying French driver, Pierre Gasly, won a race for Toro Rosso and is potentially seeking a move as promotion to the Red Bull senior squad appears unlikely.

Asked if Gasly was on Alpine’s radar, Rossi said: “We are not looking at any drivers for next year because at the moment I am considering, obviously, Esteban.

“Fernando is here next year with us so if we want to carry on the momentum we have we will do that. Pierre is obviously a great driver, of value, but at the moment this is not in our cars, I would say.”

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