Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Bahrain International Circuit, 2024

Esteban Ocon

Esteban Ocon was only 17 years old when he won the European Formula Three championship in 2014. But it would not be long before the teenager would enter Formula 1 towards the end of the 2016 season.

Ocon’s route to F1


Born: 17th September 1996
Birthplace: Evreux, France
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Ocon had reached the European Formula 3 Championship after two seasons in Formula Renault 2.0, taking a strong second in the Eurocup in 2013 by winning two of the final three races. While Max Verstappen took a few rounds to come good and was hampered by some engine problems, Ocon put the championship beyond doubt with relentless points-scoring. In a 17-race period he finished in the top two 15 times to claim his first single seater championship – and a major one at that.


After this triumph, Ocon made what appeared to be a sideways move into GP3. He had impressed Lotus in a one-off F1 practice outing for the team at the end of 2014, but needed to keep the results coming to sustain the interest of the top F1 teams.

In GP3 he again achieved remarkable consistency, taking nine consecutive second place finishes in a category where alternate races featured partially-reversed grids. Having won nine times in F3 he managed just a single victory in GP3, but 14 podiums from 18 races allowed him to pip Luca Ghiotto to the crown in a tense finale at Yas Marina.

Meanwhile, other developments had played in the French driver’s favour. Renault were poised to take over Lotus and would surely be on the market for a driver of Ocon’s skills and background. However it was Mercedes, stung by their failure to get Verstappen’s name on a contract, who moved first.


For Ocon this meant a deal to drive in the DTM in 2016: a route few drivers had taken directly to F1. But Mercedes were willing to let Renault run him in F1 practice sessions, which he did on four occasions before the summer break.

He also had a chance to test for Mercedes, adding yet further to his experience with F1 hardware. He had already driven a Ferrari F10 as a prize for his F3 victory and tested separately for the Mercedes-powered Force India team.

Ocon’s first campaign in the DTM had, not unexpectedly, got off to a more difficult start in the highly specialised category. But as events transpired he would not complete it.

Ocon’s F1 career

2016 – Manor

Rio Haryanto’s backers had promised Manor €15 million for his race seat but as the season passed its halfway point only half of the money had been paid. Ocon was therefore handed the opportunity to take over and make his F1 race debut in the Belgian Grand Prix.

A nine-race stint in the least competitive car in the field was not much of a chance to demonstrate what he was capable of, particularly given his initial discomfort with an ill-fitting seat.

But he fared increasingly well alongside fellow Mercedes junior driver Pascal Wehrlein, and impressed in the season’s most difficult race. Ocon kept his Manor in the points places until the final laps at a soaked Interlagos.

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A spirited drive in the final race included clashes with Wehrlein and Sauber’s Felipe Nasr. But Ocon had already done enough to secure a place on the grid for 2017 at Force India.

2017 – Force India

Ocon demonstrated his consistency from the off, picking up a point for the team on his debut and repeating the result in his next two starts. That was underlined by fifth place behind team mate Sergio Perez in Spain. He missed the top 10 next time out in Monaco, but brought the car home in the points at every other one of the opening 17 races.

There were flashpoints with Perez along the way, however. His team mate refused to let him by when ordered to in Canada, the pair colliding at Baku and again at Spa. But the team ended the year repeating its best finish of fourth in the constructors’ championship.

2018 – Force India / Racing Point

Ocon’s 2018 campaign was better – he decisively out-qualified Perez – but it proved a more trying season for the team, which went into administration at the middle of the year. Ocon brought cheer to the squad by leading a second-row lock-out on their return after being rescued in Belgium. However he squandered a major points-scoring opportunity in Azerbaijan by tangling with Kimi Raikkonen on the opening lap, allowing Perez in to score the team’s only podium finish that year.

There was another tangle with Perez, in Singapore, and an even more controversial one with his F3 rival Verstappen at Interlagos. Ocon was attempting to un-lap himself when he knocked Verstappen out of the lead of the race, prompting physical retaliation from Verstappen after the race.

2019 – Mercedes reserve driver

The arrival of Lawrence Stroll as co-owner meant the inevitable appointment of his son Lance Stroll to the line-up of the team now known as Racing Point for 2019. There was therefore no room for and Ocon. Renault courted him, but signed Daniel Ricciardo instead following his unexpected departure from Red Bull.

Ocon therefore spent 2019 on the sidelines, working in Mercedes’ simulator and occasionally testing for the world champions. But Renault came calling again 12 months later, and he secured a race seat with the team for 2020, alongside Ricciardo.

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2020 – Renault

Ocon qualified 14th and finished eighth on his F1 comeback at the Red Bull Ring in the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix, and a week later at the same track qualified fifth but failed to finish. His next points came two races later at the British Grand Prix, which he finished sixth in, and in the Belgian Grand Prix he matched his career-best result of fifth place.

It was an up-and-down season for Ocon thereon, usually following up points finishes with retirements. He sank to 12th in the standings as the season reached its halfway point, and remained there until the year’s end despite getting his first podium at the Sakhir Grand Prix by charging from 11th to second place.

2021 – Alpine

Renault took on the name of performance brand Alpine for 2021, and Ocon continued to drive for the refreshed team. There were many more points-scoring opportunities with the calendar expanding to a record 22 rounds and with sprint races being added to the schedule too.

Alpine started the season mired deep in the midfield, with Ocon returning to the consistency he was previously known for by getting three ninth places and a seventh from the first five races. But from that point onwards it became harder to score, as he failed to qualify in the top ten, but ended the first half of the season in the best way possible, turning eighth on the grid into an unexpected victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Ocon gained six places after turn one on the opening lap as drivers ahead collided on a wet track, then the race was red flagged. He opted to change tyres for when the race restarted, as did almost everybody else, and it put him into a lead he would hold for almost the entirety of the race.

It took until the final three rounds of the season for Alpine to contend for top-five finishes again, and Ocon amassed 24 points in that period to help Alpine secure fifth in the constructors’ championship.

2022 – Alpine

The team was even more competitive in 2022, with Ocon having his highest-scoring start to a season. He kept that form up, and matched his 2017 position of eighth in the standings and with a new personal best of 92 points.

In contrast, Ocon’s fourth season with the team began with just four points from the first four races. Before the summer break he had only once finished a race higher than eighth, and that was in Monaco where he converted third on the grid into the third podium of his F1 career.

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