Mercedes will not be able to pull Esteban Ocon out of his new contract at Alpine, even though it continues to manage the Frenchman’s career.
Ocon (pictured above while serving as Mercedes reserve driver in 2018) signed a new three-year deal this week that will see him stay with Alpine until 2024, marking the longest contract of his career. While the Frenchman continues to be managed by Mercedes, Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi says there is no potential for his driver to be picked up as a replacement for either Valtteri Bottas or Lewis Hamilton.
“There is no reference,” Rossi said. “He is a Mercedes-managed driver, that’s about it. So he’s constantly under their management but there’s no such clauses. Mercedes won’t pull him out of the team. No, he will stay with us for the next three years.”
Rossi says his faith in Ocon stems in part because of his work ethic, one that he likens to that of four-time world champion Alain Prost.
“First off he’s a great fine-tuner — it reminds me a lot of Alain [Prost], actually. He is very good at extracting the maximum out of the car and it shows — he’s constantly improving. He is damn fast, too; give him any car he’s fast, he shows it every quali. So that makes him a very good driver first off.
“He’s a good teammate, not just to the other driver, it’s also to the rest of the team. He is basically pushing everyone up, and it shows. So, he’s a great guy to have in the team.
“Beyond the F1 driver, he’s a great guy. He’s humble, very generous with his time, constantly giving his time even to us in the larger Alpine construct. He always offers to chime in to the development of the new cars or the brand awareness-type of work. So, it’s really good to have him around. That’s also why we signed him for three years.”
With new regulations coming into force next season, Rossi says another reason Alpine was so keen to keep Ocon was due to how important stability would be over the first few years of that cycle.
“It’s a three-year regulation period that opens up next year. We have a mid- to long-term view of things at Renault. We want to be here for a long time so we wanted to secure that first step of three years.
“We’ve seen enough of Esteban, we know he’s good and I don’t want to be yet again looking for another driver after two years. The recent past showed that it never really turns the right way — if you have a good driver, you want to keep him. It’s good for us and for him. We have a long way to make progress, it buys into the project and lends credibility.
“For me it’s also a guarantee that we are going to perform in the driver department. Esteban is arguably a top-10 driver minimum, so we don’t make a big mistake here. For me, it’s a no-brainer. It’s part of a long journey and Esteban fits into that mould quite well.”