Esteban Ocon looks increasingly likely to be the biggest loser from Formula One’s wild 2018 driver market, but the Frenchman has vowed not to give up on his quest to find a race seat for next season.
On Tuesday, two more pieces of the puzzle for 2019 fell into place. Charles Leclerc’s promotion from Sauber to Ferrari was confirmed, as was the unexpected news that Kimi Raikkonen would effectively swap places with him and go back to the team he debuted with in 2001.
Raikkonen’s move closed off another option for Ocon, with Lance Stroll looking to take his place as Sergio Perez’s teammate at Force India next year. The Mercedes junior saw his other best option for 2019, Renault, close after Daniel Ricciardo’s decision to move to the French team in 2019, while McLaren opted for its own protégé Lando Norris to partner Carlos Sainz.
Having seen fellow youngsters Leclerc and Red Bull-bound Pierre Gasly, the man replacing Ricciardo, move into some of the most coveted seats on the grid, Ocon says he is more determined than ever to find an opportunity for 2019.
Posting to social media, Ocon wrote: “I have to thank everyone for all the kind messages of support I receive every day. We have been in tough situations before and we’ve always overcame those, there was no easy way throughout my career as you know.
“I can promise you that it’s not at this moment I will give up. Motivation is high and my old time rivals are in top cars, and this makes me hungrier than ever! I dream @f1, I train F1, I eat F1, I play F1, I think F1… I’m born to race and my only goal is to be champion and will always be. See you all this weekend.”
With Mercedes committed to the partnership of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas for another year, Ocon’s best option now appears to be Williams. Several teams, including McLaren, have opted against taking him due to his ties to Mercedes.
Haas could well be an option, with the future of Romain Grosjean still uncertain, while Toro Rosso is yet to confirm either of its drivers for 2019.