If an F1 drive for 2019 eludes him, Esteban Ocon could remain at Force India as the outfit’s reserve and development driver, according to team boss Otmar Szafnauer.
Force India’s recent takeover by a consortium led by Lawrence Stroll disrupted Ocon’s plans for 2019, with Lance Stroll expected to join the pink squad in the near future, pushing the Frenchman out of the team.
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Over the summer, the talented Frenchman was also shut out of potential opportunities with Renault and McLaren, leaving the Mercedes protégé with Williams as his single chance to remain in F1.
Szafnauer isn’t dismissing an active development role for Ocon next season, including testing duties.
“Hopefully he’ll find something else,” said the Force India team manager. “But we’ll help him, he’s very good.
“You bide your time for a year. How long was Raikkonen out? Two years? He came back and still did well. He’s young enough and talented enough.
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“If you’re doing simulator work, the only way to really develop the simulator and the car is to be in the car every once in a while, because you’re actually simulating the car,” the American told Motorsport.com.
“You need to be current, otherwise your usefulness as a simulator driver decreases.”
Regardless of how his situation unfolds, Szafnauer believes Ocon should remain focused on F1 and not seek a drive in another category of racing.
“My personal opinion is if he doesn’t find one for next year, but there’s a good opportunity in F1 for the following year, I would not do another racing series,” he added.
“But I don’t advise him on that, he has other people, that’s just my opinion.”
Between Singapore and Russia, Ocon visited the Williams factory and enjoyed a talk with Frank and Claire Williams. The 22-year-old is still targeting a full-time race seat for 2019, but a reserve driver role could be the next best thing.
“We’ll see what’s the solution,” Ocon told Motorsport.com. “Of course, third driver is not a great thing.
“But the most mileage I can get if I’m not driving next year is always a help. We’ll see, but at the moment I’m still looking for a drive for next year.”
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