By Adam Tate, Associate Editor
Motorsports Tribune reviews the top 10 Formula 1 drivers of 2017. Our list continues with eighth-place finisher Esteban Ocon.
Esteban Ocon, No. 31 Sahara Force India Formula One Team
- 2017: 8th in the championship, 87 points
- Wins: 0, Podiums: 0, Top 5: 2, Top 10: 18, Poles: 0, Laps Led: 0, Fastest Laps: 0
- Best Finish: 5th – Two times (Spain, Mexico)
Esteban Ocon had one of the best seasons of any driver in Formula One in 2017. The fact that it was his first full season in the sport after only a partial campaign in 2016 makes it all the more impressive. His move from backmarker Manor in 2016 to ‘best of the rest’ Force India was seamless and as the season went on he put significant pressure on his vastly more experienced team mate Sergio Perez.
The 21-year-old Frenchman was calm, cool and collected a ton of points. In fact he set a record for most finishes from the beginning of a Formula One career with 27, only six finishes short of the all time consecutive finishes record held by Nick Heidfeld.
Ocon’s metronomic consistency was only spoiled on two occasions in 2017. His crash in qualifying saw him start from 16th in Monaco and fail to reach the points. In Brazil his countryman Romain Grosjean speared straight into the Force India and caused Ocon’s only retirement of the year.
There were some very close calls though, most notably with team mate Perez who increasingly lost his cool with the quick young Ocon. The first of these came at Canada where the team lost out on a potential podium finish when Perez refused to yield to team orders and let Ocon past on the tight confines of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. The next race in Baku, Azerbaijan saw the two team mates make contact when battling for position, Perez was out, Ocon was able to continue for a sixth place finish, but more was on offer and many felt the team had given away another potential podium if not a win.
Over the course of the season Ocon went from qualifying just behind Perez, to actually having a narrow advantage on Saturdays. Though he finished behind Perez in the points, it was a very close battle. Both drivers finished “best of the rest” behind the Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull drivers four times in 2017, the highest of all the midfield runners.
With McLaren moving to Renault power units and the Renault factory team likely to build on their end of season momentum, Force India will find it much harder to retain their best of the rest status in 2018. What is certain though is that Ocon will continue to develop and if he has as good of or an even better season than 2017 he will find himself in strong contention for a Mercedes seat in the near future.