Why the Alpine F1 Team Locked Down Esteban Ocon With New 3-Year Deal
The Alpine F1 team made a three-year commitment to the Mercedes Junior graduate Esteban Ocon.
The deal is for three years and there's no 'out clause' for Ocon to move to Mercedes should an open arise there.
Ocon is currently 12th in the F1 Drivers' Standings, the place he finished in both 2019 and 2020.
Esteban Ocon isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
This week, the Alpine F1 team made a three-year commitment to the Mercedes Junior graduate. Laurent Rossi , CEO of the Alpine F1 Team, said on Friday that he's happy to have locked down the 24-year-old Ocon.
The three-year deal, lengthy in F1 teams, includes no language that would allow Ocon to be a candidate for any opening at Mercedes, should one arise in the next three years. Ocon was believed to have been a finalist for a seat at Mercedes for 2020 before the team re-upped with Valterri Bottas.
"He’s a Mercedes-managed driver, that’s about it," Rossi said today in a media video conference from the site of Sunday's French Grand Prix. "He’s constantly under their management but there’s no such clause—if that’s your question—of Mercedes poaching him out of the team. No, he stays with us for the next three years."
Ocon had had modest success in his five years in Formula 1, finishing 12th in the F1 Drivers' Standings each of the past two seasons. He's 12th in the current standings for 2021, as well. Ocon has scored one podium finish in his career, that coming with a runner-up finish in Bahrain last season.
Still, Ocon checks all the boxes for Rossi and the team at Alpine.
"First off, he’s a great fine-tuner, if you will, a metteur au point," Rossi said. "He reminds me a lot of Alain (four-time F1 champion Prost) again, actually. He’s very good at extracting the maximum out of the car and it shows, constantly improving it. He’s 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 very good teammate, he’s good with the rest of the team."
This season, Ocon's teammate is two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso. Ocon has scored better at five of six races this season.
"When I say ‘teammate’, not just to the other driver but also to the rest of the team," Rossi said. "He’s basically pushing everyone up and it shows. He’s a great guy to have in the team, in fact. Beyond the F1 driver, he’s a great guy. He’s humble, very generous of his time, constantly giving his time, even to us helping in the larger construct, he always offers to chime into the development of the new cars or the brand, or in any step of work, so it's really good to have him around. That’s also why we signed him for three years."
Extremely happy to announce I will continue with @AlpineF1Team for 3 more years, I’ve been part of the team for a long time but i’m very much looking forward to write more memories together🔥 #EO31 pic.twitter.com/9fCDKCqh3b
— Esteban Ocon (@OconEsteban) June 16, 2021
Rossi said that the key to the three-year deal was part of a long-range strategy.
"We want to be here for a long time, so we wanted to secure that first step," Rossi said. "The first step is three years. We’ve seen enough of Esteban. We know he’s good. I don’t want to be here again, looking for another driver after two years, when the recent past shows that it never really turns the right way: if you have a good driver, you want to keep him.
"I think it’s good for us, good for him. We have a long, long way to make progress. He buys into the project, he lends credibility to our project. For me, it’s also a guarantee that we’re going to perform in the driver department. Esteban is arguably a top ten driver, minimum. So, we don’t make a big mistake here. For me, it was a no-brainer. It’s part of a long journey and Esteban fits into that mold quite well."