By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
Esteban Ocon is set to return to Formula 1 after signing a two-year deal with Renault, replacing Nico Hulkenberg for the 2020 season.
The 22-year-old Frenchman will team alongside Daniel Ricciardo and moves over to the French squad after spending this campaign in a reserve role with Mercedes. However, after Mercedes opted to retain veteran Valtteri Bottas it allowed Ocon to be released for an opportunity to join Renault.
Ocon has 50 F1 starts under his belt, with his most recent drive coming with Racing Point (formerly Force India). Following Lawrence Stroll taking over the team last year, Ocon was left without a seat.
Ultimately, the move to Renault is somewhat of a homecoming for Ocon.
“First and foremost, I am very proud to become a Renault driver,” Ocon said. “I have grown up at Enstone, starting with Lotus in 2010 and then with Renault. I am very attached to this team and everyone who works there; they are the ones who opened the doors of top level motorsport for me.
“Secondly, I am pleased that a team with big ambitions has entrusted me with the opportunity to once again demonstrate my skills at the highest level of F1. It is a responsibility I take very seriously. The confidence they have in me to help the progression of the team is a very positive pressure and I look forward to giving the best of myself.”
Cyril Abiteboul, team principal of Renault, believes Ocon is part of the “next phase” for the team.
“We are very happy to work with Esteban for the next two seasons,” Abiteboul said. “Over his F1 career Esteban has experienced the highs and lows of the sport, and fully understood the need to seize every possible chance. In addition to lending his natural talent, Esteban’s aim will be to focus his natural energy and drive, both of which have been intensified by a year away from racing. It is then up to us to infuse them into the next phase of the team’s progress.
“He has shown his ability to score points, has great professionalism on and off the track, plus his recent experience as reserve driver to the current world champions will be a valuable asset to the development of our entire team.
“I wish to thank Nico for his phenomenal involvement and massive contribution to our progress over the past three seasons. When Nico decided to join us, the team was ninth. He brought us to fourth place last year, and was classified seventh in the drivers’ championship. The imminent end of his contract made this decision a difficult one as Nico has been a pillar of this progress. The first part of this season has been more challenging, but I know we can count on him and deliver together throughout the second half of the year.”