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Esteban Ocon

Exclusive: Ocon reveals similarities to Verstappen and calms rivalry suggestions

They were rivals as children in karts and now they are both active in Formula 1. Esteban Ocon and Max Verstappen have known each other for a long time and according to the Frenchman, they get along better than people think.

Ocon US
To news overview © XPBimages

Esteban Ocon has long established himself in Formula 1 and has come a long way since he made his debut with the now-defunct Manor team in 2016.

Having spent a handful of years at Force India/Racing Point, Ocon joined Alpine for the 2020 campaign (when it ran under the Renault brand) after he loosened his ties with Mercedes.

Since joining the French manufacturer he has continued to expand his racing skills and became a race winner when he triumphed after a strong drive at the Hungaroring in 2021.

It was during that race-winning year when Red Bull's Max Verstappen claimed his F1 title, besting Lewis Hamilton to the championship in wild circumstances at the finale in Abu Dhabi.

Ocon and Verstappen have long known each other as they shared the track during their karting days when their paths to Formula 1 were first forged.

They also competed in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship in 2014, with Ocon winning the title while Verstappen ended the year in third.

The most public flashpoint between the two occurred at the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix when Ocon attempted to unlap himself by overtaking Verstappen who was leading the race at the time.

Neither backed out as they approached Turn 2 and Verstappen was sent into a spin, handing the victory to Lewis Hamilton. Post-race, cameras caught Verstappen shoving Ocon a handful of times in a confrontation - but Ocon believes that the situation was blown up to be bigger than it was.

“The media push it massively,” Ocon told RacingNews365.com. “I have big respect for Max. He has for me as well.

“We have a lot more in common than what you guys think. We had a very close background with our families.

“My dad was not an F1 driver, but how we were at the races with his dad, you know, preparing everything and his family being very close and mine as well.”

Ocon happy for Verstappen success

Ocon has admitted that a rivalry between the Ocons and Verstappens existed during their karting days but asserted it was always good-natured.

“There was a big rivalry as well from the families, but it was very nice,” said Ocon.

“I've seen my dad and his dad together at Spa-Francorchamps a couple of years ago, they were chatting to each other speaking about good times.

“That's also how we've built ourselves. We've been pushing each other. There are some heated moments at times but that's how sport goes.”

Verstappen has dominated F1 over the last couple of seasons and recently sealed his third F1 title - an achievement that Ocon is happy to see.

“There's no dramas, all is good,” the Fernchman declared. “And I'm very happy for him for everything that's happening to him.”


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