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Esteban Ocon

Ocon 'p****d off' by Verstappen F1 decision

Ocon and Verstappen have been rivals in racing for over a decade.

Ocon Verstappen 2022
Article
To news overview © XPBimages

Esteban Ocon has explained he was never "scared" of Jos and Max Verstappen during their early rivalry but conceded the Red Bull driver's promotion to F1 left him "pissed off"

The Frenchman has a long-standing rivalry with the Dutchman, who has gone on to become a three-time F1 champion with Red Bull and looks well set for a fourth after the opening two races of the new season.

Their rivalry was epitomised by a clash at the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix, where a lapped Ocon took out race leader Verstappen, which led to a violent post-race conversation in parc fermé.

But Ocon and Verstappen have been racing against each other since karting and speaking to the High Performance Podcast, the Alpine driver explained the on-track rivalry was "very fiery".

"Everybody was a little bit scared of Jos and Max at the time because Jos was driving in F1 before and is known for how fierce and scary he can be, talking to other young kids at the go-kart tracks," said Ocon.

"But me and my dad were never scared because we just wanted to race. We raced hard, we raced really hard and at times, we crossed lines in certain races.

"Sometimes we didn't finish where we were supposed to because of how hard the fights were but that made me learn a lot on how to race and I hope it made him learn a good amount.

"We met again in F3 later, from karting in 2011, a three-year break and then we met in F3, racing for the title.

"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."

Wolff, Vasseur to the rescue

The duo met again in European F3 in 2014 where Ocon became champion, yet it was Verstappen who found his way into F1 while the Frenchman's future looked bleak.

"That was the moment that I was about to go and work with my dad as a mechanic because the programme I was in - Lotus F1 Junior Team, and Gravity Sport Management - had no money for me to continue," explained the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix winner.

"In this transition from 2014 to 2015, I was on the phone constantly calling Toto [Wolff, Mercedes team principal] 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.

"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.

"But in those moments, I wasn't sure that I was going to even continue racing and, for me, that wasn't fair.

"I am glad all those guys saw it wasn't fair and found solutions for me to continue."

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