Ocon Describes 'Tough To Swallow Moment' With Verstappen

Tuesday, 19 March 2024 at 18:15
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During his appearance on the High-Performance Podcast, Esteban Ocon described a moment with Max Verstappen that pissed him off.
Esteban Ocon and Max Verstappen are roughly the same age. While the Frenchman is 27, the Red Bull Racing driver is currently 26.
Both were in the same age category and met on track quite a few times in different junior series before Formula 1. Ocon told High-Performance Podcast:

"There it was hard racing as well. I have always enjoyed racing with Max. Tough racing is always cool to me, side-by-side, being very close - that is what racing is all about and there is nothing else that makes me that excited."

Ocon and Verstappen went toe-to-toe during the 2014 European F3 Championship, and while the Frenchman won it, Verstappen got to skip F2 and go straight into Formula 1. Ocon said:

"In this transition from 2014 to 2015, I was on the phone constantly calling Toto [Wolff] at the time and asking him if there were any solutions for me."

"I'd met him during that year, because I won with a Mercedes engine in F3, and with Toto and Fred Vasseur, we found a solution for us to be able to continue racing and to race in GP3 - and I won that title as well."

The problem was that Wolff didn't have space in Mercedes as he had both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg on long-term secured contracts at the time.
Fortunately, the team principal signed him up to become part of the Mercedes Junior Programme (Ocon is still contracted with Mercedes today) and later found him a seat in Manor and Force India.
Nevertheless, the 27-year-old said the period during which he didn't have a contract with anyone and Verstappen was already going to F1 was very tough.

"So I got into the Mercedes Junior Programme. From there on, it was back on route but from Max not winning the title and then finishing third and then going into F1 and then me not even having an option to continue racing, that was tough to swallow."

"I was very pissed off in those times. That was very difficult. To me, it was not fair... not saying that I would go to F1 because I always believed that my time would come if I put hard work in, got the results."