Ocon cried in the parking lot after he was turned away from F1 drive

Ocon cried in the parking lot after he was turned away from F1 drive

Esteban Ocon is a Grand Prix winner and one of Formula One’s most promising young drivers. However, the Frenchman’s future seemed bleak in 2019.

Despite a strong track record during his early years in Formula One, Ocon was left without a ride at the end of 2018 after Racing Point chose Lance Stroll, the son of the team’s new owner Lawrence Stroll, to compete with Sergio Perez.

Ocon was assigned a reserve role with Mercedes and guaranteed a rigorous testing programme for 2019 as a Mercedes contractual driver handled by Toto Wolff. However, Ocon was dealt a severe blow at the first race of the season in Melbourne when he was a Racing Point driver.

“It was definitely tough and I had some very low moments mentally,” said the Alpine driver as he recalled 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.”

When Ocon was left alone, the suffering became unbearable. The idea of racing for Mercedes the following year faded away when the Brackley team committed to retaining Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton together for the 2019 season.

“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.”

However, Wolff, who is in charge of Ocon’s interests, had pledged to get Ocon a drive for the 2020 F1 season.

“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’s greatest result with Renault came at the season’s penultimate round in Sakhir, where he finished second, earning his maiden F1 podium. But the 25-year-old went one further last season, winning the Hungarian Grand Prix with the Enstone team for his first ‘jour de gloire’ in F1.

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