In the fourth episode of Formula 1’s ‘Beyond The Grid’ podcast, Force India’s Esteban Ocon talks about his long-standing rivalry with Max Verstappen, almost quitting after winning Formula 3 title and more.
The Mercedes junior starts the podcast talking about his humble beginning to his racing career coming from a normal family in Normandy (France), where his dad used to work as a mechanic. He adds on the tough environment, especially financially.
Ocon said it was a huge commitment from his dad, who wanted his son to lead a much better life than he ever did. After doing well in karting, the Frenchman’s first big break came when he joined the Renault academy.
He entered in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship in 2014 with Prema and took the title in his rookie season beating Max Verstappen. He reveals of the big fight with the Dutchman since the karting days which continued in F3.
In fact, both Ocon’s and Verstappen’s dads weren’t seeing each other eye-to-eye due to the intense battle. However, that has changed now as both of them get along well as their sons are competing in F1.
For Ocon though, winning the F3 title came as a frustration to him especially with Verstappen directly getting into F1, while Ocon was on the verge of quitting the sport all-together due to financial constraints and the Renault academy getting stopped.
It was during the Hockenheim F3 weekend when Mercedes’ boss Toto Wolff first met Ocon. He was with Renault at that time, but once things started to look uneasy with Renault, Ocon called up Wolff to see if the Austrian can help him out.
After months of wait, it was only in March 2015 that Wolff returned the call and found him a race seat in ART for the GP3 Series season. He had a pre-contract with Mercedes, but only after his success that the final contract was signed with the German manufacturer.
With the GP3 title victory, he didn’t race in GP2/Formula 2 but moved to DTM before getting his eventual F1 run with Manor and then moving to Force India in 2017. With the first goal of getting into F1 completed, the next target is the title.
Elsewhere, Ocon also talked about his idol, the seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher. He said his red helmet is an inspiration from Schumacher and that he will get back to use the helmet once he moves away from Force India.
[Episode 2: Mark Webber]