Esteban Ocon insists he is not disappointed to be returning to Formula 1 in 2020 with Renault rather than the dominant Mercedes team who have backed and mentored his career to date.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff considered replacing Valtteri Bottas with 2019 reserve Ocon for next year, after the Frenchman sat out this year following his Force India demise.
Asked if he is disappointed that his eventual race return will now be with Renault, 23-year-old Ocon told RMC: “Not at all, “I’m with a French team that has big ambitions to return to the top level in a few years, so clearly it is not at all a disappointment. Rather, it’s a relief.”
However, team officials are warning that Renault’s focus next year will clearly be on 2021, meaning that 2020 could be yet another interim season.
Ocon explained, “Renault’s ambitions for 2020 will be to do better than this year. This year we clearly underperformed, so the team wants to do much better than that. It is not the ambition to be fifth.
“From there, we will have to progress, developing the car and getting closer to the three big teams. My personal goal is to be on the podium during the season. I think that if we can do that, it will mean we have taken a big step forward.”
Ocon got his first taste of his new career in a yellow car with two days at the post-season Abu Dhabi test recently.
“Alan Permane told me that at no time did he have the impression that Esteban had not taken part in the past season,” team boss Cyril Abiteboul told Auto Hebdo. “So there is nothing particular to report, except the satisfaction of being able to do with Esteban what we could not do with Daniel (Ricciardo) last year because Red Bull did not allow it.
“Daniel’s integration to the team suffered a little because of that, so clearly we have saved time this time.,” added the French team boss.