Esteban Ocon to replace Nico Hulkenberg at Renault for 2020 F1 season

Esteban ocon
Esteban Ocon drove for Force India in 2018, and qualified third at Spa behind Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton

Esteban Ocon will join Renault for 2020, returning to the sport after a year on the sidelines.

The Frenchman was left out on a limb after Force India went into administration and were taken over by Canadian billionaire Lance Stroll.

Ocon spent a year as Mercedes reserve driver but has now joined Renault on a "multi-year-contract".

He will partner Australian Daniel Ricciardo and replace German Nico Hulkenberg, who is now without a seat.

Ocon was initially planning to join Renault for this season, only for the team to renege on an agreement to sign him when Ricciardo indicated he was keen to leave Red Bull and join the French car company.

That led to some bad feeling between Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff and Renault F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul, but Wolff had pledged to find Ocon a seat in F1 in 2020 and Renault was the best option.

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."

Ocon, who was Renault reserve driver in 2016, said: "I am very proud to become a Renault driver. I have grown up at [their Oxfordshire factory 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."

Abiteboul praised Hulkenberg for "his phenomenal involvement and massive contribution to our progress over the past three seasons".

He added: "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."

Hulkenberg said on Twitter: "It's a pity that the journey with Renault will end after the season, especially as we haven't been able to reach our goals yet. We had hoped to take another step forward this season, but unfortunately we haven't managed that so far.

"It is well known that the choice of drivers is not only about performance, it is a whole bundle of factors. But that's the way it is. Surely we would all have liked to see it differently."

Hulkenberg is 14th in the championship, three places and seven points behind Ricciardo, who is 8-4 up in their qualifying head-to-head.

The German, who holds the record for the longest career in F1 without scoring a podium finish, is tipped for a move to the Haas team, where Frenchman Romain Grosjean is out of contract.

Top Stories