Esteban Ocon has ‘strong links to Mercedes’ amid Lewis Hamilton replacement rumours

Esteban Ocon was a Mercedes junior and reserve driver (Photo: Getty)

Esteban Ocon says he still has ‘strong links with Mercedes’ with the Formula One star one of the contenders to replace Sir Lewis Hamilton in 2025.

The F1 world is still reeling from the shock news that Hamilton will be joining Ferrari next season after 11 successful years with Mercedes.

Unsurprisingly, speculation is rife as to who could replace the seven-time world champion and team up alongside George Russell at the Silver Arrows.

Alex Albon and Carlos Sainz are among the favourites, while retired four-time champion Sebastian Vettel and 17-year-old rookie Andrea Kimi Antonelli have an outside chance.

Also in with a good shot is Ocon, who has been linked with Mercedes for years having come through their junior programme and spent the 2019 season as their reserve driver behind Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

Most significantly, the Frenchman is still managed by the team’s CEO Toto Wolff.

At the launch of Alpine’s 2024 car, Ocon was quizzed about potentially moving teams, and told Sky Sports: ‘I obviously still have strong links with Mercedes, I’m still a Mercedes junior driver, that is no secret to anyone.

F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Qualifying

Pierre Gasly has impressed over the past few seasons (Photo: Getty)

‘But I’m totally dedicated to Alpine this year, I’ve got 24 races to get through and we’ll see where we end up. Formula 1 is fierce, a lot of things can happen, as we can see, but I’m ready to take on the challenge.

‘This has always been, even if I’m not that junior anymore, I’m still contracted with them at some stage. So, it is how it is. We will see.’

The 27-year-old, who won his first race at Hungary 2021, has a contract till the end of the year, as does his Alpine teammate Pierre Gasly.

The other Frenchman has also been tentatively linked with the Mercedes seat having improved greatly after an ill-fated spell alongside Max Verstappen at Red Bull.

Gasly claims he was ‘aware of talks’ between Hamilton and Ferrari despite many being in the dark over the move, though like Ocon he played down his own links to the Silver Arrows.

‘I think my goal in F1 has always been clear. I want to fight at the front. That’s why I came to Alpine a year and a half ago – because I want to be fighting for top positions,’ the one-time race winner said.

‘The approach coming into every single weekend is the same. It doesn’t really matter whether there are seats for grabs or not.

‘So, it hasn’t changed my approach to Formula 1. I just turned 28. Basically, at my prime. I know I have some good years ahead of me, so it hasn’t changed anything on my side.’

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