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Esteban Ocon

Is this driver a key contender for an Audi F1 seat?

Audi is set to arrive in Formula 1 in two years' time, and this race-winning driver could be a key figure for it to pursue in the driver market.

Esteban Ocon Alpine Spanish GP Thursday
To news overview © XPBimages

The Formula 1 driver market is set to be thrust into bedlam this year with almost three-quarters of the grid having expiring contracts.

There is high potential for several moves around the grid to be made as teams and drivers look toward getting themselves set in place for the 2026 season.

In two years, new technical regulations will be introduced on both the chassis and Power Unit side of operations, which may shake up the pecking order as the sport enters a new era.

Arriving on the grid for the 2026 regulations will be several new Power Unit manufacturers, including Audi, who will also set up its own works team.

The German manufacturer will takeover the Sauber-run outfit that is operating as Stake this year, as it aims to be a top contender going forward.

Stake will field Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu for a third consecutive season this year and it seems that both drivers will need to fight for their seats beyond the campaign.

Audi's arrival on the grid will no doubt spark the interest of several drivers on the grid, and it may well be one of the most sought-after seats on the market.

Ocon to Audi?

According to a report from Formula1.com, Esteban Ocon is “very high up” on Audi's list of drivers as they prepare for Audi in 2026.

Ocon, who has 133 Grand Prix starts to his name, currently competes for Alpine and has done so since 2020, when it ran under the Renault moniker.

The Frenchman became a race-winner with Alpine when he prevailed at a chaotic Hungarian Grand Prix in 2021.

Ocon is one of many drivers who is out of contract at the end of the 2024 season and for now, appears to be a strong contender for the drive having been a consistent performer for Alpine.

Despite his ties to Alpine, Mercedes recently revealed that it still manages the 27-year-old's career, meaning the former World Champions would also likely be involved in any talks.

RacingNews365 previously highlighted that Nico Hulkenberg is also a prime suitor for a race seat at Audi due to his vast F1 experience, coupled with the strong speed he showed during his comeback season last year.

A line-up of Hulkenberg and Ocon would bring Audi valuable experience as it commences its F1 journey with the view of lifting itself into race-winning contention before the end of the decade.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Enough of Alpine?

Alpine's 2024 campaign was riddled with issues as several managerial changes were made during the year.

Laurent Rossi departed his CEO position, having been critical of the team's early-season performances. During the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, the exits of Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer and Sporting Director Alan Permane were confirmed.

When Alpine rebranded in 2021, a 100-race plan was announced with the hope of contending for titles in 2024.

But having slipped back in the pecking order last year and ending the season fifth in the Constructors' Championship, a title fight is highly unlikely this year for the French squad.

With little to cheer about from Alpine's performance point-of-view, an offer from Audi may be difficult for Ocon to resist given Alpine's failure to live up to its expectations thus far in F1.

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