Toto Wolff has criticized rival teams for lying about wanting to take Esteban Ocon and admits the Mercedes youngster looks set to miss out on a seat in Formula 1 next year.
Ocon has impressed since making his debut for Manor in 2016, joining Force India last season and currently sitting just one point behind teammate Sergio Perez in the drivers’ standings. Despite such a strong performance, Ocon saw a planned Renault drive for 2019 disappear when Daniel Ricciardo opted to move from Red Bull, and Wolff says it will be a travesty if Ocon doesn’t remain on the grid.
“What’s been going on this year in July and in August was just unbelievable,” Wolff told Sky Sports. “There was so much politics in the background, hidden agendas, lies, and not all of the good kids are going to end up in cars, and probably Esteban will be one of them. But we’ll look after him. He’s one of the future stars. I’m 100 percent sure of that.
“In July, he had two offers on the table with contracts, and it was just a matter of choosing which one was the right one, and he ended up not having any anymore because people just don’t have the balls to simply stick to what they say. We have to sort it out. Esteban is strong — he’s been through different moments in his career. We’ll fix this one as well.”
Wolff believes part of the reason Ocon has failed to secure a seat so far could be more of a reaction to the Mercedes team principal himself rather than the driver.
“If someone else out there feels that way and it compromises their own performance as a team not taking the best drivers, it’s their problem and not ours. But we can see that momentum and it’s fine. I don’t want to rely on anybody else, and neither should the young drivers that have power and speed be relying on anybody else. I think talent is eventually going to find a way to the good cars, and Esteban is going to.”
On Friday Mercedes announced it will part ways with Pascal Wehrlein at the end of the season in order to give the former Sauber driver a better chance of securing an opportunity elsewhere. However, Wolff ruled out such an approach with Ocon.
“Not in a million years, because one day he is going to be in a Mercedes and win races and championships, and show all the others out there that they made a mistake.”