One to Watch: Esteban Ocon

This year’s European Formula Three championship has been making the headlines this year, mostly for one driver – Max Verstappen. However, Verstappen wasn’t the champion in that category this year. A youngster from France took the title, and he has impressed two teams in tests in cars from both, and is even part of a young driver program. On top of that, he has already made his mark by being included in a Formula 1 Friday practice session. Who knows what the future holds for the Frenchman Esteban Ocon.

Born in Normandy in 1996, Ocon began karting at the age of ten. He was winning championships by the age of 11 and swiftly moved onto the international scene. He was runner up in the World Super Karts Europe championship in 2011 and decided to move to cars for 2012. At this point he attracted the Lotus Formula One team, and he was signed and backed as their junior driver.

He joined Koiranen GP in the Formula Renault 2.0 category. Notable names in the category that year include Stoffel Vandoorne, Daniil Kvyat, Oliver Rowland and Pierre Gasly. Ocon finished in 14th in his first year in cars, but showed steady progress throughout the year. He also took part in the Alps series that year as a part-time driver. He took three podiums in total. For 2013, he moved to ART where he managed eight podiums including three wins split between the main Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup and the NEC championship. He also finished the Eurocup in third. He also took part in the famous Macau Grand Prix, and developed a partnership with Prema Powerteam. The Grand Prix didn’t exactly go according to plan but he did decide to move to the European Formula 3 championship for 2014 with the team.

With names like Tom Blomqvist and Max Verstappen (sons of Stig and Jos respectively) involved there was a lot of intrigue in the Formula 3 series this year. However Ocon picked up five victories and podiums in all bar one race in the first four triple-headers to open up a massive lead to Verstappen, Blomqvist and Lucas Auer. Blomqvist picked up three wins of his own whilst Verstappen had seven no-scores in that time, usually through no fault of his own. The championship took a massive twist however as Verstappen dominated at Spa and at the Norisring, taking six wins on the bounce. Ocon bounced back at the Moscow Raceway with three on the bounce but that was nulled by a no-score at the Red Bull Ring. At this point, Blomqvist was finding form and finished each of the last 12 races in the top five. Ocon managed to clinch the championship at Imola, taking his ninth victory of the season in the process, with a whole triple-header round to spare and with it became the first rookie winner of the championship since the championship returned in 2012. Ocon’s reward for this was tests with Ferrari and Lotus, in which he drove older cars and impressed the famous Italian team, as well as the team which he has been backed by since 2011. He is certainly on the radar now, and has drove in Free Practice 1 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for lotus, ending up on the pace of regular driver and Grand Prix winner Pastor Maldonado.

If not, a year in either Formula Renault 3.5 (in which Ocon has already three starts to his name) or GP2 is the next logical step for the ever-impressive Frenchman.  

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