Ocon shares painful memories: ‘I won, Max got the seat’
By Srihari HS 22 mei 2020 | 16:33
Esteban Ocon has a deep-seated rivalry with Max Verstappen. The Frenchman looks back when the tension between the two Formula 1 drivers arose and what was the most difficult moment for him. The Dutchman has been an opponent for him throughout his career.
“I think the first time I raced with Max Verstappen was in 2010. It was a tough year for me transitioning into international racing. Karting is very tough anyway. I was alone with my dad pretty much fighting the big teams.” Ocon said on Formula 1’s official site. The Ocon family did not have a huge budget, so the Renault driver had to rely on his talent.
The two met for the first time in that international competition. The first karting championship was between the two boys, who were both about thirteen years old at the time: “Max and I were always quite close on track, and sometimes it came too close! In 2011 we were fighting for the 2011 world series championship, and he won in the end.”
Ocon and Verstappen in Formula 3
In the karting world, they both managed to impress; it resulted in a promotion to Formula 3 for Ocon and Verstappen. “I became part of the Lotus F1 junior team, and the management decided it was a good time to switch to FIA European Formula 3.”
“After a few races, the competitive rivalry returned. Max started to become strong, and he was challenging me for wins, and suddenly he was the guy to beat."
“I won the title in Formula 3 but the tough moment for me was that Max had signed a deal to race Formula 1. Well done to him, definitely, but when I saw the news it was difficult to swallow,” Ocon admitted. Verstappen got a seat, although he had finished third in the competition.
It was a very bitter pill for the former Force India driver: “He was third in the championship; I was winning, and I didn’t have a seat in any category at that time.”
“I did a few tests in GP2 (now Formula 2), but there was nothing really confirmed. The Lotus F1 junior programme had difficulties at the time, and I wasn’t going anywhere, so it was quite a challenging moment.” It seemed like a continuation of his racing career was no longer possible, but Ocon managed to get through it.
Using Verstappen for motivation
Ocon found his way into the racing world through hard work. Where did he get that motivation? Let’s say that his rivalry with the Dutchman has been good for something: “I used that as motivation. I knew I had to work hard and keep on top of the junior categories if I was to make it to Formula 1.”
“It was my ultimate target; not necessarily wanting to face Max again, but rather joining him in Formula 1,” Ocon concluded. Pretty soon, the Frenchman followed the same path and ended up at Manor and Force India through the Mercedes training program. (Photo: Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images)
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