On Wednesday afternoon, Esteban Ocon raised some eyebrows at the presentation of the Alpine A524 by indicating that he is still affiliated with Mercedes. During a Q&A with the media, the Frenchman was asked about Lewis Hamilton’s switch to Ferrari. “As you know, I am still a Mercedes junior driver,” he told the journalists present, including those from Motorsport.com.
The fact that Ocon is still a junior driver at Mercedes caused some surprise. When Ocon switched to Renault in 2019, his contractual ties with Mercedes would come to an end. “He is 100 percent Alpine driver,” Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said at the time. “Even if I am no longer a Mercedes junior, I will continue to have a contractual relationship with the team,” Ocon explains. Mercedes is responsible for Ocon’s management. Like George Russell, he belongs to the team under the wing of Gwen Lagrue.
Ocon’s current contract with Alpine expires at the end of the 2024 season. Mercedes could therefore bring him back without having to buy him from Alpine. Yet he seems to remain loyal to his current team for the time being. “I fully belong to Alpine at the moment,” says Ocon. “I have to do a good job on the track because it is a defining year, regardless of whether you have a contract or not.” Yet he knows all too well that rumors are circulating about him and the Mercedes seat. ‘Fine. If people talk about you, your performance is good.’
Team boss looks around cautiously
Alpine team boss Bruno Famin hopes that he can fully rely on Ocon and that they can communicate openly with each other. Still, he admits that Alpine is preparing for the worst. ‘We obviously look at what is on the market. We have to be prepared,” Famin indicates. ‘Nobody knows what could happen. It’s part of my job to analyze that.’
For the time being, Alpine will not actively look for other drivers for 2025. ‘We are currently satisfied with our drivers and there is a lot to do to further develop the car. That is a priority,” said Famin. ‘We regularly talk to our drivers about our relationship. Before and after Hamilton’s switch.’