Hamilton baffled by Ocon's predicament


Just one month ago it appeared that Esteban Ocon was a shoo-in for the seat alongside Nico Hulkenberg at Renault. Then came Daniel Ricciardo's bombshell.

Now, a driver who has pushed Sergio Perez all the way at Force India - and then some - faces banishment to the dark reaches of the F1 grid... at McLaren.

While such an admission - that McLaren is no longer a team that young chargers want to move to - is one sign of the topsy-turvy nature of contemporary F1, so too is the fact that a highly talented young driver is to be dumped by his current team - in favour of the (new) boss's son - and is unable to find a decent, competitive drive elsewhere.

Yesterday, Ocon put his Racing Point Force India third on the grid in a qualifying session that was admittedly something of a lottery, and while he is likely to score some of the team's first points today - which will mean some prize money for 2018 - there is every chance he will not be in the car come Monza, or certainly Singapore. Certainly, he will not be in the Force India next season, the youngster having admitted to Sebastian Vettel that he was to be dropped.

Despite Lance Stroll's coy responses to questions over the Spa weekend, the Canadian is heading to the team recently purchased by his father's consortium, the only question is when.

Lewis Hamilton admits shock at Ocon's predicament and wonders how it has come to this, after all, while moving to McLaren appears a negative move for Ocon, who would have thought that another young driver would be as desperate to leave another great British team, Williams.

"I've always been a supporter of Esteban," said Hamilton. "I think, how he conducts himself and how he performs on track is exceptional and unfortunately we're in a weird place in Formula One where you've got some teams that, rather than take a new up-and-coming kid, they'll take whoever's got the moment, which means the structure of the sport is probably wrong, and how the funds are distributed, or whatever it is.

"I also know, once I'd signed, once Sebastian had signed, things start to fall into place, and you've got to be, and you've got to be super-super quick, and make sure you've got good management, so they're sharp and make sure they do their diligence and they're ready to quick-fire in the right direction.

"I've not read of who's signed where and what seats are available but he needs to be in a great car because he's one of the top drivers here so I hope that opportunity is there for him."

Asked if now, more than ever, F1 is more about money and financial clout than talent, Hamilton said: "I've not put a lot of thought into what the sport can do about it.

"(But) the best drivers need to be in the best car," he continued. "You can't let somebody who's got more money leapfrog a better driver. It shouldn't happen.

"I think the governing body definitely has to somehow... and it starts from the low classes all the way up through Formula Four, Formula Three, Formula Two. Obviously there's no space in my team, there's no space in his (Vettel's) team, there was a space in Red Bull. There has to be some sort of a shoot-out of some sort maybe.

"I don't know what his options are," sighed the Briton. "In some ways, I wish I was managing you and maybe I would be able to help.

"Maybe we can speak later," smiled Ocon.

"In a session like that where it can be quite chaotic and you can easily do a mistake, to keep your head together was crucial. That's what he did," added Sebastian Vettel, referring to Ocon's Q3 heroics.

"Then, I think, unfortunately it's our times, a new guy comes in and he's the superhero, then another guy comes in and he's the superhero, then another guy comes in and then he's the superhero, and then another guy comes in and he's the new superhero. And by that time, the first guy is easily forgotten, even though he's doing a very, very good job but not really considered any more, as in talked about and written about, so that's why I think it's good for him to have this result today, and he should get mentioned. I think it's his day and obviously for us, you sort-of expect to be there. We've got the cars and the consistency but, as I said, whatever the car is called he's driving now, it doesn't belong in P3 and he managed to do so, so well done, that should also be considered for someone signing him next year."

Asked how it felt to receive such praise from two of the sport's legends, Ocon smiled. "For sure, it's awesome to hear that. I'm very happy to hear that.

"Of course, I want to be racing next year and I'm doing everything for it, I'm working very hard every day for it and to hear great things from those two champions is fantastic.

"I will see what the future is going to bring. I'm managed by Mercedes and they have been taking great decisions for me in the past so I'm sure it will be the same again for me in the future, hopefully, and I will be sorted out."

Check out our Sunday gallery from Spa, here.

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Published: 26/08/2018
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