Born into a middle-class family as the son of a mechanic Esteban Ocon was always well supported by his parents. But the early stages of his motorsport career weren’t easy. His family struggled to afford his participation in karting to the point that they even sold their house to make it possible. Esteban spent this time of his life living in a caravan and traveling from race to race while still completing his studies. But with all these sacrifices came also responsibility and pressure: The pressure to be good, to not fail,  to make it all worth it. There were difficult times; times that he struggled; personal blows of fate. But in the end, Esteban never gave up and achieved his childhood dream of being a Formula 1 driver and even more…

Where it all began

The first time young Esteban sat in a Go-Kart was on a family vacation when he was just four years old. He spent his whole time going around the track so it was no surprise that his dad gave him a baby kart for the following Christmas. From there onwards he started taking part in competitions and over a six-year period from 2006 to 2011 he achieved national and international glory. Amongst several championships were the 2008 French Cadet Championship and a runner-up spot in the 2011 WSK Euro Series. In those years he came already face to face with the likes of Charles Leclerc, Anthoine Hubert and Max Verstappen who he would encounter again in the future.

 

The next step towards the dream

At the age of 14, Esteban then made his debut in cars by competing in the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup where he finished P14 in the championship with one podium on home soil in Le Castellet. In the same year, he took also part in the Formula Renault 2.0 Alps. He improved his performance and finished P7 with two podiums at the Red Bull Ring. For the 2013 season, Esteban continued to compete in the same championship but switched to the ART Team which helped him to secure P3 in the championship with 3 podiums and his maiden victory. After a very successful season, the Lotus F1 Junior Team took him under its wings and helped him to secure a seat with Prema Racing in the European F3 championship.

 

A second family and a familiar rivalry

To be the best driver he could be Esteban moved to Italy for the 2014 FIA F3 season. He put his whole time and heart into helping the team which soon paid off. He dominated the standings from the first race at Silverstone onwards and was constantly collecting pole positions and podiums. Still though, it wasn’t an easy season as he had constant competition in a young dutchman. Max Verstappen became stronger and stronger from race to race and soon was the one to beat. The racing was hard and fair but in the end, Esteban could secure the championship. It was his most competitive year in cars until then which earned him a trophy but also a very passionate, caring and enthusiastic second family in Prema Racing.

 

An uncertain future

Esteban had a stellar season but after 2014 his future wasn’t clear. Although he tested an F1 car in 2014 for the Lotus F1 team and made his debut in an FP1 session, their Junior program had financial struggles. Meanwhile, 3rd placed Max Verstappen had already secured an F1 deal with Torro Rosso. Something tough to swallow for young Esteban who had won that championship. It seemed like all the odds were against him but then there was finally a light at the end of the tunnel. After training harder than ever and spending lots of time at the Endstone-based Lotus Team a door opened with ART in GP3. Not leaving anything on the table he went on to win the title with only one (!) victory.

 

Almost there

In 2015 Esteban got another taste of Formula 1 as he completed a post-race-test for Force India in Barcelona. Even though he left Formula classes in 2016 he still continued his role as test driver for Renault and Mercedes F1 Teams while competing in DTM. This allowed him to take part in several practice sessions and to gain lots of experience. After 10 races for Mercedes Benz in DTM, it was finally the moment Esteban had waited for his entire life: Manor F1 Team offered him a seat for the second half of the season which then resulted in his F1 debut at the Belgian GP.

 

Growing as a driver

2017 was another big year for Esteban: He did not only become a part of the Mercedes F1 Junior program but all his hard work was also rewarded with a full-time seat at Force India where he partnered Sergio Perez. While he certainly impressed with his racing skills and scored 12 consecutive points finishes in a row, his on-track relationship with his teammate was dominated by incidents; Team orders were ignored, and crashes became a common sight. In the end, he still claimed P8 in his first full season in the championship. An impressive result for a rookie and proof of his right to be in F1.

Esteban continued his journey at the pinnacle of motorsport with Force India in 2018. Many points finished were overshadowed by first lap collisions and mechanical problems which cost him dearly. But the worst was yet to come…

 

Right place, wrong time

Midway through the season Force India F1 Team got into financial trouble and as a result, faced liquidation. To avoid the loss of jobs legal actions were taken and consequently, the team was put into administration. Not long after that Canadian businessman Lawrence Stroll purchased the team. From then onwards it was known as Racing Point. But with the new owner also having a son in Formula 1 it got soon clear that either Perez or Ocon would have to leave the team at the end of 2018. With more incidents in the second half of the season, a crash with his teammate in Singapore and another one with race leader Verstappen in Brazil Esteban lost out. Even though he was in promising contract talks with the Renault F1 Team no agreement could be reached.

In November 2018 it was then announced that Esteban would miss the following season. His commitment for that year would be with Mercedes as a reserve/test driver.

 

Back where it all began

Spending a season on the sidelines Esteban was eager to be back on the grid in 2020. He came close to signing with Mercedes but ended up back at the Endstone-based Renault team where he partnered Daniel Ricciardo. After a long off-season due to Covid-19, it was then finally time to go racing again. It was a challenging year that had its highs and lows as Esteban tried to find his rhythm and confidence. One of his best races was the Sakhir GP in which he made up 8 places. He was able to take advantage of some early collisions, had the right strategy and a tyre gamble at Mercedes rewarded his flawless drive with a podium finish.

 

A reward for all the sacrifices

Esteban continued with the team in 2021 which was rebranded as Alpine F1 Team. After Daniel Ricciardo’s departure to McLaren, the team found their second driver in no one less than two-time world champion Fernando Alonso. While Fernando had to get back into the rhythm Esteban showed an impressive performance with consecutive points finishes from Portugal to Monaco. Proving the team his worth he soon signed a new deal tying him to the team until 2024. The next view races though didn’t go as planned. A DNF in Baku and difficult races in France and Austria made it a time to forget.

At the beginning of August F1 made its way to Budapest. Alpine had a very decent weekend and qualified P8 and P9. The chance for scoring a double points finish was herby given. But the first lap changed everything… A big collision in the first corner saw Lewis Hamilton in P1, Esteban in P2 and Sebastian Vettel in P3. Fernando Alonso also gained many positions. Choosing to pit right away for dry-tyres after the restart proved to be the perfect strategy as Esteban came out in P1. Mercedes made the wrong decision which saw Hamilton return on track as last after his pitstop. With Vettel in P2 and almost constantly in DRS range Esteban had to be careful to not make any mistakes. In the end, he delivered a flawless drive to secure his maiden victory and the first for the Alpine F1 Team. The joy, the tears, all the emotions when he fell into the arms of his team were a scene that won’t be forgotten in the near future. Seeing a driver win his first race is something really really special. They sacrifice everything just to get a shot at their dream and moments like this show how much it means to them.


Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Esteban_Ocon
https://www.formula1.com

 

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