Ocon to replace Hulkenberg at Renault from 2020

By Christopher Devine 29 August 2019 8
Ocon to replace Hulkenberg at Renault from 2020

Esteban Ocon will replace Nico Hulkenberg at Renault from 2020 after signing a two-year contract with the French team.

Having served as Mercedes' reserve driver this season, Ocon was in contention to replace Valtteri Bottas as the number two driver for the constructors' champions.

However, Mercedes exercised their option to retain Bottas on Thursday and that announcement was swiftly followed by Renault confirming the signing of Ocon.

As a result, the 22-year-old Frenchman will return to the F1 grid next year as the team-mate of Daniel Ricciardo.

After a takeover led to him departing Racing Point - previously known as Force India - at the end of the 2018 season, Ocon had looked set to join Renault for the current campaign. However, he was left without a drive when the team announced the surprise capture of Ricciardo.

"We are very happy to work with Esteban for the next two seasons," said Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul. "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."

Ocon, a former Renault reserve driver who was also a member of the Lotus junior programme, added: "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 also paid tribute to Hulkenberg, who will be looking for a new team at the end of his third campaign with Renault.

"I wish to thank Nico for his phenomenal involvement and massive contribution to our progress over the past three seasons," said Abiteboul. "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."

After finishing seventh in the standings last term, Hulkenberg sits 13th this year, albeit team-mate Ricciardo is faring little better in 11th.

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Christopher Devine