A few days ago, we were ruminating on the silly season and in particular, the Esteban Ocon affair. As a Mercedes driver, Toto Wolff was nonplussed about the prospect of there being no ride for Esteban in 2019. As a Mercedes driver, some teams used that relationship as a reason they didn’t hire him for 2019.
In the midst of all this hand -wringing and mumbling, we received a TPF Mailbag question about how the obvious place for him was in the seat of the person that is forcing him out of a ride. This person, of course, is the galactically talented Lance Stroll or as others might counter, the galactically well-funded. Stroll will leave an empty seat at Williams F1 and that team, as you may recall, is also powered by Mercedes.
Claire Williams has turned her Mercedes power unit supply agreement into an alternative revenue stream as her little team has been uniquely positioned with assets that Mercedes, as time and opportunity have dictated, need in order to keep their drivers driving. First there was the last-minute need of Valtteri Bottas’s services when Nico Rosberg left. Now there is the need to find a place for their young star, Ocon, and once again, Claire may be able to turn this into a free engine deal like some suggested she did with releasing Bottas from his contract. I don’t know if that’s what she really got in compensation but maybe it was a lot of cash or a deep discount on engines…hard to say what the deal was.
Ocon said of the Williams possibility:
“There are talks with Williams obviously,” he said.
“The talks are there, but I cannot say it will be a downgrade. Williams is a great team, they have been world champion in the past and they have been fighting with us hard last year.
“They have tough times, but all teams have tough times.”
It makes sense for Ocon to go there and not sit out a season but as a driver tied to Mercedes, the negotiations are a tripartite deal and Mercedes and Williams need to sort the details so it may not be all in his hands.
Hat Tip: Autosport