Spotlight on Mercedes rising F1 star Esteban Ocon: Has he kicked on this year?
Mercedes
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 May 2018   |  2:35 pm GMT  |  16 comments

In music they call it the difficult second album. In F1 a driver who enjoyed a stellar debut season, can sometimes struggle to kick on in the second season and progress.

Such appears to be the case this year so far with Mercedes protege Esteban Ocon.

“I think it is one of the most important year of my careers,” Ocon told Motorsport.com at the start of the year.

“After learning a lot last year, everybody is waiting for me to confirm this year, which is quite normal. It’s what my bosses are looking at.

“My career’s managed by Mercedes so my bosses set me some targets for this year and I have to respect them.

“I feel like if I do a strong job here there will always be plenty of opportunities, but at the moment I’m fully focused on Force India and that’s the important thing.”

First the good news; Ocon leads his Force India team mate Sergio Perez 3-2 in the qualifying match-up this season, having lost 13-7 in 2017. This matches the ratio in the final five Grands Prix of 2017.

But the bad news is that this isn’t matched by points scoring. He has suffered two consecutive retirements in Baku and Spain, double his total for 2017.

And Perez had a podium in Baku among his two points scoring results this season, the other being a ninth place Spain. Ocon has only scored a single point, in Bahrain.

Ocon was leading Perez in the opening corners of the Baku race, but his Azerbaijan Grand Prix ended with a collision with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.

“It’s disappointing not to finish the race on a day in which we had such good pace,” Ocon said after Baku.

“I had a flying start and I managed to pass Kimi [Raikkonen]. I was ahead of him all the way to turn two and when we went into the corner. I was behind [Daniel] Ricciardo but Kimi made a lunge and put me in the barriers.

“I feel it was my corner and I was on the racing line, but he locked up and hit me. I feel the mistake was on his side.”

Points have been harder to find for Force India this season, after a wonderfully consistent 2017 season. Ocon ended the 2017 season with a pair of six places and a fifth among his final five results, Perez picked up three seventh places.

It’s clear that McLaren, Renault and Haas have all made progress this season, which has allowed all of them to score at least one fifth place in the opening races and which has pushed Force India down, with Perez’ podium in a chaotic Baku race the outlier result.

This weekend the F1 teams head to Monaco, where Perez scored a podium in 2016, one of his eight F1 podiums to date. last year he qualified a disappointing 15th in Monaco, eight places behind Perez.

What do you think of the start Ocon has made this season? Do you expect him to beat Perez over the season? Leave your comment in the section below

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1
Tornillo Amarillo

Take into account Ocon looks as thin than the Pink Panther really, he is taller (1.86m) than Perez (1.75m), so naturally heavier, so that’s is a permanent disadvantage in lap times. Maybe 0.3” a lap?

Next year everybody will have ballast to equal the weight and with that Ocon will shine! If you want to conjugate them, Perez is the “past continuous”, but Ocon the “future continuous”.

2

As already mentioned by some others, Ocon is very fast in qualifying but still work in progress when it comes to race-craft with other cars around. It strikes me that Lance Stroll is exactly opposite in sense that the guy has big problem qualifying (his record last year against Massa says a lot) yet generally does himself proud when around other cars, and this is actually very unusual coming from a young driver. Back to Ocon, his other problem is that he is obviously compared against his team-mate, who I am inclined to say is way better than British media and public tend to make out to be. If we exclude ones driving for the top three teams, I’ll probably rate Perez second best behind Alonso, not withstanding that Leclerc and Magnussen are impressing so far this year.

3

It was evident from his not so impressive Baku drive that there’s still a lot to learn. He had no cars on the outside in that corner, he just squeezed Kimi in a very squarish way, that corner was never going to happen. What looked very promising last year now looks mediocre at best.

4

If Ocon is to live up to the hype, he needs to put day light between him and Perez -who (lets face it) is a 2nd tier driver at best and a pay driver at worst. Since they have been together Perez leads 117-88 and is pulling away.

Ocon has had enough time to get up to speed, so i think the lights are fading for him pretty quickly…

5

I am disappointed at Occon’s view of the collision with Raikkonen. Occon shut the door, and squeezed him right on the apex of the corner. This was an unnecessary move. The failure to learn from a mistake means he will repeat it!

6

He has to outscore Perez in qualifying but also in points in those races when neither suffers or gains from influence beyond their control. If he doesn’t, well that might have consequences for his future, might!

7

He’s fast but lacks racecraft. He was lucky last year in the incidents he had, it could of just as easily cost him as much as Baku did. He also had a very competitive car making things a lot easier. He won’t have that luxury this year i think we will see him struggle.

8

There is no doubt about his speed in qualifying. But he still has to prove his racecraft skills like what Vestappen done to be in a top team.

9

It’s abit of lottery start to Ocons season.

But some things have been outside of his control on track. He will come good.

Assume Toto is weighing up the future of a few Mercedes Young drivers and where they’ll be best suited. Whether its F1 or Fe or Endurance. With Mercedes pulling out of DTM the drives will become even more competitive. With regards to Ocon he had a chance of getting into The Top place in a few seasons time.

Bottas has started to get use to his role at Petronas Mercedes Team. So I doubt there’ll be a move to The Big Boys Team for Ocon just yet.

His best bet is to stay at Force India for a few seasons.

Looking more like Bottas has cemented his rear in the the old Rosberg seat. He works well Lewis and its a harmonious partnership. Ocon is still a class act.

10

I think it’s only a matter of time till he outshines Checo this season. I do feel he is consideration to replace Bottas next year ar Merc. I believe this makes for both as when Lewis moves on, he becomes their lead driver. I also think Toto has a soft corner for him.

11

Indeed, Ocon has had a slower start to the season and I think this has more to do with him being a French driver.

Unfortunately France hasn’t had success in producing successful drivers in the past with Prost being the outlier

In addition, Ocon has the problem of being paired with a midfield giant in Perez who has a reputation of putting his midfield partners in the shade

Overall, it’s a blessing that Ocon is part of the Mercedes academy so his chances of making it to a top team make it a bit better

12

You think his disadvantage this year is because he is French?

You really need to qualify such an absurd statement…

13
Stephen Taylor

I have to say I have been very disappointed with Ocon this year . This was the year he needed to start beating Checo consistently which he hasn’t done so far . Ocon a bit like Verstappen had begun to believe his own hype and needs to get back to basics . No chance now he’ll be a MB driver next year.

14

On the face of it, it hasn’t been a good start, although out qualifying Perez is no mean feat. The retirement in Barcelona wasn’t his fault, but I thought the Baku accident with Kimi could have been avoided. No doubt his season will improve, he is clearly a quality driver.

15

Ocon’s start to the season has been slower than I expected.

With the points lead that Perez has, I don’t think Ocon will catch him.

16

I’m sure he’ll do well as the season progresses

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