Ocon v Verstappen: A rivalry rooted in F3

The drama between Esteban Ocon and Max Verstappen in Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix is nothing new. In fact, this rivalry can be traced all the way back to Formula 3…

“I’m used to the fights with Max,” Ocon said after the latest incident between the pair in Brazil. “He’s always been the same. It goes back a few years.”

And he isn’t wrong…it goes all the way back to 2014, to be precise, when the pair were battling it out in the 2014 FIA Formula 3 European Championship.

Race 3: Silverstone – The rivalry begins…

Silverstone hosted the first round of the 2014 FIA Formula 3 European Championship, and it was also the scene of the Verstappen-Ocon rivalry beginning to play out in the public eye.

Ocon had won the second race of the weekend, and was ahead of Verstappen in the third and final race as well.

However, coming into the Loop, the Dutchman caught Ocon unawares and took that position off him.

Race 13, 14 & 15: Spa – Verstappen does the triple

The Spa-francorchamps weekend was one of Verstappen’s best in the season. He won all three races, and overtook Ocon in all three as well.

In Race 13 of the Championship, the Dutchman was in P3 going through Eau Rouge. He got past both Ocon and Antonio Fuoco to take the lead.

Race 14 saw Ocon take P2 off Verstappen off the line, but Verstappen got back past the Frenchman into Les Combes.

Later on in the same race, Ocon tried the switchback move, but Verstappen saw him off and held on for the win.

Race 15, and the final round in Belgium, saw Verstappen take the lead off Ocon once again into Les Combes, as four cars battled for the lead.

That wasn’t the only action between the pair in the third race at Spa. Ocon had a go at getting past Verstappen into Les Combes on Lap 4 and succeeded…for all three seconds.

The Dutchman fell behind Ocon, but immediately swung to the outside and took the position back in Turn 7 (See 21:35).

Race 21: Moscow – Ocon gets his own back

After a dominant weekend at the Norisring, Esteban Ocon finally gave Max Verstappen a taste of his own medicine.

After a late Safety Car, there was a one lap shoot-out to the flag. Verstappen took the lead on the final corner of the penultimate lap after the SC had gone in.

However, Ocon was having none of it, and after banging wheels, the Frenchman took the lead, and the victory in Moscow.

Race 22: Spielberg – First corner collision

At the next round in Austria, the two finally came to blows. Ocon started on pole, with Verstappen alongside him on the front row.

However, the Frenchman would be spun around by Verstappen at the first corner, as the Van Amersfoort car clipped the inside kerb and flew into the side of Ocon.

The Dutchman would eventually go on to finish in P4 in the first race at the Red Bull Ring, while Ocon would not finish outside the points.

Ocon, though, would prevail over the course of the season, going on to win the title by 58 points from Tom Blomqvist. Max Verstappen finished in third, a further nine points back.

However, Verstappen won more races than the Frenchman over the course of the season…

The rivalry continues

Four years on, and the battle still rages.

In an incident very similar to that one in Austria in 2014, one car went down the inside of the other and ended with them both spinning out in Brazil.

This time, though, it was the reverse of 2014. Ocon was the man to dive down the inside into the second part of the Senna S at Interlagos.

Both of them would spin, but crucially the Red Bull driver would lose out on a much deserved victory while Ocon was already, and firmly remained, a lap down.

The next chapter – title rivals?

Could we see Esteban Ocon at Mercedes in 2020? That seems to be the way things look right now, unless by some miracle Valtteri Bottas wins the World Championship next year…

But, if that is not the case, and Honda provide Red Bull with a decent power unit, then Verstappen and Ocon could be fighting each other for wins, maybe Championships in the future.

Watch this space…

Matt Coles

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