Daniel Ricciardo admits that his move to Renault inadvertently pulled the rug from under Esteban Ocon, leading to the French driver’s current F1 plight.
Over the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, Mercedes’ Toto Wolff and Renault had theoretically agreed terms for the French team to replace Carlos Sainz with Ocon for 2019.
However, a week later, the Mercedes protégé was beat to the punch by Ricciardo who announced his move from Red Bull to Renault following what he called at the time “the toughest decision of my life”.
In retrospect, the Aussie is fully aware of how his decision has impacted the plans of a driver who now finds himself with almost no options for next season.
Angry Wolff hints at ‘hidden agendas and lies’ in Ocon plight
Ocon won’t be remaining at Force India as the team, acquired recently by a consortium led by Lawrence Stroll, has already committed to a deal with Sergio Perez and will probably enroll Lance Stroll as a logical consequence of his father’s investment.
“The Ocon situation, I didn’t do it to screw him, but the effect of my move has put him in a bit of a position now,” said Ricciardo, responding in Singapore to a question from Motorsport.com on whether the Frenchman’s troubles were an indication of the hardship now facing young drivers in F1.
“I don’t know, I wouldn’t say the young driver thing because we have more younger drivers in the field than ever before.
“I feel old at 29. There’s kids below their 20s in F1. I don’t think it’s harder.
“There’s political stuff, there’s financial stuff, that’s always involved but I genuinely believe that pretty much the vast majority of the grid now is based around talent.
“I don’t think the sport’s in a bad place at all.”
Indeed, several young talents – like Charles Leclerc or Pierre Gasly – have been rewarded for their efforts this season with big promotions, while McLaren junior Lando Norris will step up to the big time next year.
Ocon’s predicament appears to be rooted in unfortunate circumstances and timing.
“I don’t know Ocon’s situation,” adedd Ricciardo.
“If he doesn’t have a drive next year, sure he’s worthy of a drive. But I wouldn’t say he’s the first guy that’s missed it. It’s happened before that drivers with the talent have lost out.
“If he didn’t have a seat, do I think that’s the end of his F1 career? No, I don’t.
“I feel it’s always gone on, and it’s unfortunate. I don’t think it’s necessarily in a different place to what it has been.”
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