Esteban Ocon will start work with Renault following next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and drive for his new team during the Pirelli tire test.
The Mercedes reserve driver was announced as Daniel Ricciardo’s teammate for 2020 back in August, replacing Nico Hulkenberg who currently looks set to drop out of Formula 1. Ocon has perviously tested for Renault but never raced for the team, with his race experience coming for Manor and Force India — with the latter now known as Racing Point.
While Ocon remains the Mercedes reserve until the end of the season, once the final race is complete Mercedes has agreed to release the Frenchman to start work with his new team, resulting in him carrying out the complete Pirelli tire test for Renault that will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday following the grand prix at Yas Marina.
“Esteban Ocon will officially join Renault F1 Team on Monday, December 2 and will take part in both test days at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi on December 3-4,” a Renault spokesperson confirmed.
The Pirelli tire test is seen as crucial for 2020 as early runs of the new tire compounds took place in cold conditions at Circuit of The Americas, when teams were unable to carry out significant testing due to their focus on the race weekend.
“The feedback was mixed,” Pirelli motorsport boss Mario Isola said. “I believed that we had quite difficult conditions in Austin. It was very cold and the new tires are designed with a different philosophy. So the plan now is to test them again in Abu Dhabi, where we have a two-day test planned specifically for testing the new construction and new compounds; so we will have a comparison that is more reliable compared to Austin.
“We tested this new construction during the year with the teams and with their cars and we found an improvement in terms of overheating, in terms of compounds with a wider working range — but mainly the new construction was designed because every year the performance of the cars is increasing and obviously we have to follow this increase in performance.
“If we don’t change the construction, the only possibility is to raise the starting pressure — and raising the starting pressure is making the overheating worse and the behavior of the tyre in general worse. So, the new construction has been designed with the target to keep the pressure as low as possible, according to the improvement in the performance of the cars.
“I hope that we can have a test in Abu Dhabi that is more representative. I fully understand during the race weekend all the teams are focused on the race weekend itself, so they cannot adjust the setup of the car — the aero balance of the car — and the new tires have a different profile. They are wider, especially on the rear, and this has an impact on the downforce of the car, as well as the balance of the car.
“So, we need a bit more time to test them properly on long runs, to understand if we achieve this target. After that, obviously we are very happy to… not accept any decision but to discuss the result of the test and to see what is better for the sport.”