As the 2019 F1 championship resumes in Belgium after the summer break, the grid for next year has already started taking shape. While Mercedes earlier confirmed Valtteri Bottas as part of its 2020 driver line-up, Renault has now announced that Esteban Ocon will be returning to F1 with the team on a multi-year deal, driving alongside Daniel Ricciardo.
Of course, Ocon is well-known to Renault and the team in Enstone, having served as Renault’s reserve driver in 2016 and also being a Lotus junior programme member. "First and foremost, I am very proud to become a Renault driver. I have grown up at Enstone, starting with Lotus in 2010 and then with Renault. I am very attached to this team and everyone who works there; they are the ones who opened the doors of top level motorsport for me. Secondly, I am pleased that a team with big ambitions has entrusted me with the opportunity to once again demonstrate my skills at the highest level of F1. It is a responsibility I take very seriously. The confidence they have in me to help the progression of the team is a very positive pressure and I look forward to giving the best of myself,” he said.
After winning the GP3 title in 2015, Ocon made the move up to F1 with Manor Racing in 2016 before moving to Force India for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Despite securing some impressive results during his stint at Force India, the team – now competing as the SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team under new ownership - opted to sign Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll for this season, leaving Ocon without a 2019 drive. He’s been serving as Mercedes’ reserve driver and was also speculated to be in contention for a seat at the team next year before Mercedes opted to retain Bottas.
"We are very happy to work with Esteban for the next two seasons. Over his F1 career Esteban has experienced the highs and lows of the sport, and fully understood the need to seize every possible chance. In addition to lending his natural talent, Esteban’s aim will be to focus his natural energy and drive, both of which have been intensified by a year away from racing. It is then up to us to infuse them into the next phase of the team’s progress,” said Cyril Abiteboul, Team Principal Renault F1 Team.
Ocon will be replacing Nico Hulkenberg at Renault, with the latter expected to sign with the Haas F1 team. In a statement posted on his social media Hulkenberg said “With regard to 2020, I am confident to find a good solution, but there is nothing to announce at the moment.”