ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Formula One champions Mercedes have taken up an option to retain young Frenchman Esteban Ocon as a junior driver but have yet to decide whether to hand him a reserve role with the team or support him in another series.
The tall 19-year-old, a past European Formula Three champion and current GP3 leader, has been the official Mercedes reserve in the DTM (German Touring Car) series and also tested for Mercedes-powered Force India.
“He’s somebody we would very much like to have in the family, this is why we exercised the option,” said Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday.
He denied however that the news meant the F1 team’s official test and reserve driver, Germany’s Pascal Wehrlein, would now be heading for a race seat at the Manor Marussia team who are due to have Mercedes engines next year.
“It doesn’t mean that we have found the solution for Pascal. The current driver market is a bit difficult because most of the (F1) teams have already announced their drivers and it needs to be the right deal.
“But having taken up Esteban, we are conscious we have to find a suitable program for both of them — but it could eventually end up for both of them in a testing role, in a reserve driver role and a DTM role.”
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis