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Esteban Ocon

Ocon recalls 'very low' moment during year as Mercedes reserve

Esteban Ocon was forced to spend a year on the sidelines in 2019 after being left without a seat on the F1 grid. He was handed a lifeline at Mercedes as their reserve driver, but admits that he found it difficult to accept that he wouldn't be getting behind the wheel as much as hoped.

Ocon japan 2019 mercedes
To news overview © Mercedes

Esteban Ocon admits that he had some "very low" moments during his year spent as a reserve driver for Mercedes in 2019, with one particularly tough point coming early on in the season.

The Frenchman was left without a seat on the grid after being replaced at the then-called Racing Point team by Lance Stroll, but was offered a lifeline by the Silver Arrows.

Adapting to being on the sidelines proved challenging, though, especially when Ocon arrived at the opening event of the campaign in Australia and learned that he would not be getting behind the wheel for several months.

"It was definitely tough," he told the Beyond The Grid podcast.

"I had some very low moments, mentally. I think I will remember that one from Australia. [I] got there at the first race in 2019, and we were supposed to have quite a big test programme, so I was supposed to drive the car quite a bit.

"When I got to Australia, I got told that I was not going to drive the car for the next six months. The next test was going to be in six months' time."

Tough moments as Mercedes reserve driver

Ocon says that hearing this hit him hard.

"That's how it was planned, and unfortunately the days reduced for some reason, for budget purposes and all that, which is completely understandable," he continued.

"The most important [thing] is definitely to run the race team, and to keep all the money for that. But yeah, that was quite a big hit.

"I remember leaving the Melbourne track, going into the rental car and I cried in the parking lot. [There were] definitely a lot of low moments."

The Alpine driver added: "I don't have much problem [getting] to sleep, but I remember that night was not the best."

Ocon praises Mercedes team

Despite the difficulties that not being in a race seat brought, Ocon has praised Mercedes for how they integrated him into the team during 2019, and has named the likes of James Vowles and Toto Wolff for helping him along the way.

"I was very well looked after," he explained.

"They were looking after me and trying to find solutions. Toto was quite clear. He said, 'You will drive in 2020', and I said, 'How can you be so sure, Toto?'

"And he said, 'You will see'. I didn't want to believe him, because I didn't want to be disappointed.

"But [there have] been quite a few times that, when he spoke about something, it actually happened, and it did happen again. I got to drive in 2020 – not in Mercedes, but in Renault – and that was the start of something new for me."

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