Ocon to be without a seat next season due to Mercedes link

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Esteban Ocon, Force India VJM10 Mercedes, leads Sergio Perez, Force India VJM10 Mercedes.

Red Bull Formula 1 boss Christian Horner says Toro Rosso won’t sign Esteban Ocon owing to the French driver’s Mercedes connections.

Horner says that Ocon would not be considered by Red Bull for a Toro Rosso seat while he is contracted to a main rival, despite the lack of qualified young drivers within the drinks companyโ€™s own junior programme.

Both McLaren boss Zak Brown and Renault chief Cyril Abiteboul have expressed similar sentiments about Ocon, who will be without a drive when Lance Stroll joins Force India.

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Esteban Ocon

With Red Bull reluctant to hire drivers linked to other teams, former Red Bull and Toro Rosso driverย Daniil Kvyat is believed to be top of the list for a return to the Faenza outfit.

โ€œFor what is relatively little investment by Mercedes itโ€™s been to their merit that theyโ€™ve helped these guys to get into F1,โ€ Horner told Motorsport.com. โ€œBut now it seems to be almost an anchor being a Mercedes driver.

โ€œBeing on a recall mechanism isnโ€™t attractive to a vast majority of teams.

โ€œThe crazy situation is youโ€™ve got a driver like Ocon who might end up without a seat next year. If he was to be contractually free heโ€™d be an obvious candidate for Toro Rosso.

โ€œBut Red Bull arenโ€™t going to invest in a Mercedes driver, understandably. And I wouldnโ€™t expect the same to happen the other way round.โ€

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Mercedes should have taken risk on Ocon

Horner said that Mercedes could have solved the Ocon problem by promoting him to a race seat with the works team, pointing that Red Bull had taken the plunge with Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.

Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel winning his first race for Red Bull in 2009

โ€œItโ€™s very easy to go with something known,” he said. “And thereโ€™s far more perceived risk in taking an unknown quantity or a junior, and I think weโ€™ve demonstrated on numerous occasions that it pays off.

โ€œWeโ€™ve had a very successful junior programme, and Red Bull has a junior team, and has invested in that. Itโ€™s paid dividends with Seb, Daniel and Max, and weโ€™ll see with Pierre Gasly [who replaces Ricciardo in 2019].

โ€œAnd itโ€™s given numerous others opportunities, such as Carlos Sainz.โ€

Horner acknowledged that there is currently a โ€œwindowโ€ just below F1 in Red Bullโ€™s talent ladder, but he stressed that there are plenty of youngsters on the way up.

โ€œThe market place goes in fits and starts,” he continued. “Weโ€™ve got Dan Ticktum in F3 whoโ€™s winning that championship, but these things are all cyclical.

“Weโ€™re constantly looking at young talent and emerging talent, so I donโ€™t think that window will be open for too long. Weโ€™re looking at the grass roots, investing in youth.

“We have two very good young junior drivers on karting at the moment, Harry Thompson and Jonny Edgar. You have to go to the grass roots to try and support young talent coming through.โ€

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