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Esteban Ocon’s Unique Path To F1

Esteban Ocon had a great junior career, although, lack of funding created unique challenges for the driver.

Esteban Ocon was a young talent, however, lack of funding and sponsors slowed his progress to Formula One. After years of struggling to keep his grip in the F1 world because he didn’t bring sponsors the way his peers did, with the support of Mercedes, Ocon now has both feet standing firmly in the sport. Ocon is now an F1 race winner, following his win at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2021.

Karting

While competing in karting, Esteban Ocon’s parents had to sell their family home and his father’s garage to fund his karting career. After selling the house, they lived and travelled to races in a caravan Ocon also used as a motor home.

Nonetheless, Ocon had a great karting career. Ocon entered karting in 2005 competing in Championnat de France Regional Ile de France – Minime and Coupe de France – Mini Kart, finishing first and fifth respectively. In 2006 he finished eighth in the Minime class of the French Championship. He won the championship in 2007 and continued his success by winning the Cadet class in 2008 ahead of Anthoine Hubert and Pierre Gasly.

Ocon then spent three years racing in the KF3 category and competed in the Spanish Championship and Italian Open Masters. In that time, he won 4 KF3 titles.

Formula Renault

Esteban Ocon made his debut in single-seater racing in 2012, competing in the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and Formula Renault 2.0 Alps championships. He finished P14 and P7 in both competitions respectively.

The Frenchman remained in Eurocup Formula Renault for 2013 and had a better season. He finished the season P3 overall. That season, he acquired 1 pole position, 2 race wins – one of which was at Circuit Paul Ricard – and 5 podiums.

Also in 2013 was a partial campaign in the Northern European Cup. There he managed 1 race win at the Hockenheimring and 2 podiums to round off his season in P12.

Formula 3 and GP3

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Later in 2013, Esteban Ocon made his debut in Formula Three machinery at the 2013 Macau Grand Prix. He stalled at the start of the main race but went on to finish P10 making a good impression.

In 2014, Ocon stepped up to the highly competitive FIA Formula 3 European Championship with Prema. He enjoyed a stellar season, enjoying 9 wins, 21 podiums and 15 pole positions in a 23-race season. He consistently performed well throughout the season, allowing him to clinch the championship title with 478 points. Ocon was crowned FIA Formula 3 European champion with three races remaining. He won the title 58 points ahead of Tom Blomqvist and 67 points ahead of Max Verstappen.

Following his Formula 3 title win, Esteban Ocon moved to the GP3 Series in 2015, joining the ART Grand Prix team. Despite facing stiff competition, he showcased his skill and consistency by winning the championship in his debut season. Despite only scoring one race victory (two other victories were denied due to penalties), he won the championship by 8 points. That season, he had 3 pole positions and 14 podium finishes from 18 races.

Financial difficulties limit Formula 2 and Formula 1 opportunities

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Despite great performances throughout his junior career, it took a while for Ocon to get a seat in Formula 2. This was due to a lack of funding. Lack of funding is also the reason it took him a while to join F1. As a member of the Mercedes-Benz Junior Driver Program, Ocon drove for Mercedes-Benz in the first ten races of the 2016 DTM season, alongside his F1 reserve driver role at Renault before he was promoted to a full-time F1 race seat. He raced for Manor in the final 9 races of the 2016 F1 season.

Ocon found himself without a drive for the 2019 season due to sponsorship and financial constraints yet again. Despite being linked with several teams, including Renault, he had to settle for a reserve and test driver role with Mercedes for that season. However, this period as a reserve driver allowed Ocon to secure a full-time drive with Renault (now Alpine F1 Team) for the 2020 Formula 1 season.

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