Toto Wolff says Esteban Ocon does not have a clause in his Renault contract allowing him to return to Mercedes in 2021.
Ocon will join Renault next season on a two-year deal, having spent this year as the Mercedes reserve driver but not racing. With Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas both out of contract at the end of next season, there remains a chance Mercedes will be in the market for a new driver at the end of 2020. But Wolff says that was not factored into Ocon’s new Renault deal.
“No, there is no clause,” Wolff said. “He is a full-fledged Renault driver for the next two years, and with certain options afterwards on both sides. No clause (allowing him) to come back for 2021.”
As Ocon will join a rival team, Wolff admitted the Frenchman’s role at Mercedes will start to change during the latter part of this season even though he will remain reserve driver for the rest of the year.
“Esteban and I discussed it – how long he should stay in his various roles. I said, ‘The longer you stay the more information you are taking with you,’ and he replied, ‘Of course I’m going to take all this information with me’,” he said.
“It’s a transition. He’s in our simulator – it’s an important role in helping us develop the car. But step by step, Esteban is going to fade out of meetings about the future, about things that are going to impact next year’s car or that we deem to be sensitive from the engineering or innovation point of view.
“He’s with us this season though, and is doing some very valuable work that we need done in order to win this championship.”
Although Renault reneged on an agreement to sign Ocon last year in order to secure the services of Daniel Ricciardo, Wolff said he had no issues agreeing to the deal with managing director Cyril Abiteboul this time around.
“We never lost the trust,” he said. “There is so much discussion between Renault and Mercedes, so much in common – how the sport should go. That as much as the situation with Esteban affected us, and we let some words slip; this is part of the game.
“There were phases where we were upset with each other, but you have to move on. It hasn’t changed anything about the respect I have for Cyril and the respect I have for Renault as a brand, and that’s why we moved on. You need to play hard and forgive quickly.”