Max Verstappen close to Mercedes deal as Horner tipped to quit Red Bull

Max Verstappen’s fast-tracking into Formula One left a bitter taste for then-rival Esteban Ocon.

The Frenchman, who now drives for Alpine, has won the European Formula 3 Championship in 2015, with Verstappen finishing third.

However, Verstappen was promoted onto the F1 grid after just a year in car racing, winning a seat at Toro Rosso before his break at Red Bull.

Ocon, meanwhile, barely had an option as his team had run out of money and he was left desperately scrambling for his racing future. He recalls being ‘p***** off’ at Verstappen’s success.

“It’s [when] things that were out of our control, let’s say. And that’s the moment where I was actually about to go work with my dad, as a mechanic, as well,” Ocon told the High Performance Podcast.

“Because the programme I was in, which was called Lotus F1 Team Junior and Gravity Sport Management, had no money for me to continue at the time and in this transition from 2014 [to] 2015, I was on the phone constantly calling Toto [Wolff] at the time and asking him if there was any solutions for me, or because I’ve met him during that year, because I won with the Mercedes engine in Formula 3.

“And with Gwen [Lagrue, Mercedes driver programme advisor], Toto and Fred Vasseur, we found a solution for us to be able to continue racing and to race in GP3, and I won the title as well.

“So I got in the Mercedes Junior Programme and from there on, it was back on route.

“But from Max not winning the title, finishing third and then going into F1 and me not having even an option to continue racing, that was tough to swallow, for sure, and I was very pissed off in those times.

“That was very, very difficult because, to me, it was not fair. Not saying that I would go to F1, because I always believed that my time would come that if I put hard work enough, got the results, my time will always come.

“But in those moments, I wasn’t sure that I was going to even continue racing and, for me, that wasn’t fair. I’m glad that Toto, Gwen, Fred, all these guys saw that it was not fair and found solutions for me to continue.”