Mercedes option to replace Lewis Hamilton 'managed' by Wolff for last nine years

Mercedes option to replace Lewis Hamilton ‘managed’ by Wolff for last nine years

Alpine star Esteban Ocon has revealed that he is ‘still a Mercedes junior driver’, despite being 27 years of age, and that he still has ties with the Silver Arrows as they look for a replacement for Lewis Hamilton. The Frenchman is expected to be one of the frontrunners to fill the vacant seat alongside George Russell for the 2025 season.

Ocon joined the Mercedes junior programme back in 2015 ahead of his triumph in the GP3 series, giving him a launchpad from which his F1 career could blossom. The following year, he replaced Rio Haryanto at the Manor Racing team, making his debut at the Belgian Grand Prix. 

The Frenchman’s Mercedes connections then landed him a seat with Force India, where he produced one of the strongest full rookie seasons in modern F1 history. Ocon scored points in 18 of the 20 Grands Prix that year en route to a P8 finish in the Drivers’ Championship standings. 

When the arrival of Lance Stroll shifted Ocon out of the picture at the newly rebranded Racing Point team in 2019, he spent the year working with Mercedes as a test and reserve driver. While he made his F1 return with Renault – now Alpine – the following season, he also retained his Mercedes connections.

Addressing the links amid speculation of a move to the Silver Arrows in 2025, Ocon explained: “It’s clear that we have links with Mercedes. I’m managed by Mercedes for a long time now, since 2015.

“I’m a junior, even if I’m not that junior anymore. But yeah, we’ll see what the future holds. As I said, at the moment, I’m completely dedicated to Alpine, what I have to do with the team and the plan that we have ahead as well.

“And that’s the whole focus I need to have because these things are very disruptive focus-wise and that’s why I have a very competitive management team that’s able to take the right choices on where we have to be, so I’m not worried and my focus is on the track.”

Both Ocon and team-mate Pierre Gasly will be in the shop window when they turn out for Alpine this season. The French duo are two of the 13 drivers out of contract come the end of the 2024 campaign and will be looking to insert their names into the conversation for driver line-ups further up the grid.