MARINA BAY, Singapore — Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has blamed “hidden agendas” and “lies” for Esteban Ocon’s struggle to secure a seat on next year’s Formula One grid.
Ocon, who is a Mercedes junior driver, looks set to leave his current team Force India in order to make way for Lance Stroll — the son of the team’s new owner Lawrence Stroll. Wolff had been working on a deal to move Ocon to Renault in 2019, but it fell through when Daniel Ricciardo signed for the team in August.
“What’s been going on this year in July and in August was just unbelievable,” Wolff told Sky Sports. “There was so much politics in the background, hidden agendas, lies, and not all of the good kids are going to end up in cars, and probably Esteban will be one of them. But we’ll look after him. He’s one of the future stars. I’m 100 percent sure of that.”
Ocon was also linked to McLaren earlier this year but the British team recently revealed that his connection to Mercedes had put the team off.
Wolff confirmed two deals had fallen through for the Mercedes junior driver over the summer.
“In July, he had two offers on the table with contracts, and it was just a matter of choosing which was the right one. But he has ended up not having any anymore because people simply don’t have the balls to stick to what they say. We have to sort it out. Esteban is strong, he’s been through difficult moments in his career. We’ll fix this one as well.”
When it was put to Wolff that his association with Ocon may have worked against him, the Mercedes boss added: “Yeah, it could be. If someone else out there feels that way and it compromises their own performance as a team not taking the best drivers, it’s their problem and not ours.
“But we can see that momentum and it’s fine. I don’t want to rely on anybody else, and neither should the young drivers that have power and speed to be relying on anybody else. I think talent is eventually going to find a way to the good cars, and Esteban is going to [go].”
Wehrlein set to leave Mercedes junior programme
On Friday, Mercedes also confirmed it would not be renewing its contract with Pascal Wehrlein, who has been part of its young driver programme since driving for Mercedes in DTM in 2013.
“Our junior programme has always been about supporting young talent and finding opportunities that are in the best interests of the drivers’ careers,” Wolff said of Wehrlein. “It is not always a straight path to the top — and sometimes we have to recognise that it is the right time to end a relationship, too.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t offer Pascal a competitive drive for next year. In his best interests, we have therefore decided together with Pascal not to extend our agreement and to give him the best chance of securing an opportunity elsewhere that his talent merits. We want to thank him for his fantastic performances for Mercedes-Benz in recent years and wish him all the best for the future.”