Esteban Ocon left feeling ‘p***ed off’ with Max Verstappen and his F1 promotion

Henry Valantine
Esteban Ocon and Max Verstappen.

Esteban Ocon and Max Verstappen have been racing each other since they were children.

Esteban Ocon admitted feeling “pissed off” at seeing Max Verstappen getting promoted to Formula 1 as the sport’s youngest ever driver, having finished third in the same championship he had just won.

At the same time, Ocon had revealed he did not have an option to continue racing at that time in 2014, but soon found a way back into motorsport through the Mercedes Junior Programme.

Esteban Ocon reveals ‘pissed off’ feeling after Max Verstappen’s F1 promotion

Ocon admitted that he and Verstappen had enjoyed a “very fiery” rivalry through their teenage years when they began racing together, with the pair having come through the junior ranks alongside the likes of Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly at a similar time.

Verstappen was promoted into Formula 1 after just one season in car racing, finishing third behind Ocon and Tom Blomqvist in the European Formula 3 Championship on his way to a Toro Rosso seat in 2015.

Having first raced Verstappen in karting, Ocon first revealed a bit more about facing Verstappen in his younger days.

“It was very fiery, but everybody was a little bit scared of Jos and Max at the time, because Jos was driving in Formula 1 before, so he’s known for how fierce and how scary he can be talking to other young kids and all that on go kart tracks,” Ocon told the High Performance Podcast.

“But my dad and myself, we were never scared, because we just wanted to race. We wanted to race hard, and we’ve raced hard, we raced really hard. And at times, we crossed lines, you know, at certain go kart races.

“All of that made me learn a lot on how to race and, and I hope it made him learn a good amount as well.

“And then we met in Formula 3, racing for the title as well, and there it was hard racing, as well.

“So I’ve enjoyed the racing with Max, I’ve always enjoyed it I think. You know, tough racing is always cool to me, racing, side-by-side being very close. That’s what racing is all about. There’s nothing else that makes me that excited.” recommends

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Having worked his way towards the title in European Formula 3 in 2014, Ocon revealed more about the lack of options in front of him as he faced a potential exit from racing altogether.

He used his contacts to keep racing from there, but seeing his rival get promoted to Formula 1 while he struggled to find a seat at all felt like something of an injustice at the time.

“It’s [when] things that were out of our control, let’s say. And that’s the moment where I was actually about to go work with my dad, as a mechanic, as well,” he said of that uncertain period.

“Because the programme I was in, which was called Lotus F1 Team Junior and Gravity Sport Management, had no money for me to continue at the time and in this transition from 2014 [to] 2015, I was on the phone constantly calling Toto [Wolff] at the time and asking him if there was any solutions for me, or because I’ve met him during that year, because I won with the Mercedes engine in Formula 3.

“And with Gwen [Lagrue, Mercedes driver programme advisor], Toto and Fred Vasseur, we found a solution for us to be able to continue racing and to race in GP3, and I won the title as well.

“So I got in the Mercedes Junior Programme and from there on, it was back on route.

“But from Max not winning the title, finishing third and then going into F1 and me not having even an option to continue racing, that was tough to swallow, for sure, and I was very pissed off in those times.

“That was very, very difficult because, to me, it was not fair. Not saying that I would go to F1, because I always believed that my time would come that if I put hard work enough, got the results, my time will always come.

“But in those moments, I wasn’t sure that I was going to even continue racing and, for me, that wasn’t fair.

“I’m glad that Toto, Gwen, Fred, all these guys saw that it was not fair and found solutions for me to continue.”

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