Christian Horner says the uncertainty over Esteban Ocon’s Formula One future would be solved if Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was willing to invest in his junior talent.
Ocon’s options for 2019 appear to be slimming, with the Frenchman likely to replaced at Force India by Lance Stroll — son of the team’s new owner Lawrence. On Friday, Toto Wolff accused Mercedes’ rivals of “hidden agendas” and “lies” over Ocon’s situation, as several teams have turned down the opportunity to sign the French driver due to his links to Mercedes.
His best option had been a move to Renault, but the French manufacturer secured the services of Daniel Ricciardo during the summer break. Red Bull filled the void left by the Australian’s departure by promoting one of its own junior drivers, Pierre Gasly, into the senior team for next season.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner thinks Wolff, who signed Valtteri Bottas to a one-year contract extension with Mercedes earlier this year, needed to be more decisive with Ocon’s future, pointing out that one of its engine customers Williams has two free seats available for next season.
When told about Wolff’s comments by Sky Sportsn, Horner said: “We’ve invested in the team. If Toto writes a cheque I’m sure [Ocon] can get him a seat in Williams.
“There’s three super talented kids, certainly two very strong ones I think, and Ocon would be great to see in Formula 1 and George Russell. Toto might have to cut them free at the end of the day because it’s a shame to see those guys not get a Formula One seat, just because of who they’re contracted to.”
Horner pointed out that Red Bull had stuck to its philosophy of promoting young drivers for a long time.
“It’s the only real way. We’ve made that commitment, we’ve made that investment, and it paid evidence with Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, Pierre Gasly coming through.
“I think the problem that Toto’s got at the moment is that he’s got talented drivers but there isn’t a seat. That’s going to be a real problem for those guys going into next year.”
Earlier this week Ferrari confirmed the promotion of its own junior driver, Charles Leclerc, from Sauber to Ferrari for 2019, with Kimi Raikkonen set to move in the other direction.