Alpine driver Esteban Ocon says he retains “strong links” with Mercedes amid speculation that he could join the team in 2025 following Lewis Hamilton’s move to Ferrari.
Hamilton’s blockbuster switch, confirmed last week, has dramatically altered the driver-market going into a season in which more than half of the current grid, including Ocon, are entering the final year of their contract.
Ocon, who hired Mercedes boss Toto Wolff as his manager in 2015, spent the 2019 season as the team’s reserve driver having found himself somewhat unfortunate to miss out on a seat.
“I obviously still have strong links with Mercedes, I’m still a Mercedes junior driver, that is no secret to anyone,” Ocon told Sky Sports News on Wednesday at the launch of the team’s 2024 car.
“But I’m totally dedicated to Alpine this year, I’ve got 24 races to get through and we’ll see where we end up.
“Formula 1 is fierce, a lot of things can happen, as we can see, but I’m ready to take on the challenge.”
Further explaining his continued ties to Mercedes when speaking to reporters at the launch, Ocon added: “This has always been, even if I’m not that junior anymore, I’m still contracted with them at some stage.
“So, it is how it is. We will see.”
Ocon, along with his team, is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2023 campaign.
While he was stuck with a car that performed well below Alpine’s pre-season expectations, the fact that Ocon finished behind team-mate Pierre Gasly in the latter’s first season at the team will have been a source of a major disappointment.
The 27-year-old is aware that only a strong 2024 campaign will ensure his name remains linked with the likes of Mercedes, amid a whole lot of driver market chatter.
“It’s going to be a pretty crazy season on that side, for sure,” Ocon said. “Silly season has already started.
“For me it’s important to focus on what I have to focus, and that is the track, that is the results, that is doing a good job on track.
“I’ve been part of this team for a long time, I know that if you do a good job, you’ll always have opportunities and talks and rumours and all these things, but I’m going to be focused on what matters, and leave my manager and team to deal with that.”
When is the first F1 race?
The opening race of the 2024 season will begin with the Bahrain Grand Prix from February 29 to March 2.
Due to the Muslim holy period of Ramadan, the Bahrain and, seven days later, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, will be held on a Saturday.
This means practice one and two will take place on Thursdays, with final practice and qualifying on Fridays.
24 races in 2024! Watch every round of next season live on Sky Sports F1, starting with the Bahrain Grand Prix from February 29-March 2. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership
Get Sky Sports on WhatsApp!
You can now start receiving messages and alerts for the latest breaking sports news, analysis, in-depth features and videos from our dedicated WhatsApp channel!
Find out more here…