Potential Lewis Hamilton replacement target confirms Mercedes ‘links’ remain

Jamie Woodhouse
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2023 United States Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton drives the Mercedes W14.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon confirmed he remains under Mercedes management, a potential huge boost as the team looks for Lewis Hamilton’s replacement.

Hamilton got the ball rolling on F1 2024 ‘silly season’ before the on-track action even began as it was confirmed that he is heading to Ferrari for 2025.

That then leaves Mercedes with a huge, seven time World Champion-shaped hole to fill in their driver line-up, with team boss Toto Wolff having confirmed to media including PlanetF1.com’s Thomas Maher that anyone from a rookie to an experienced F1 racer could land the seat at this stage.

Esteban Ocon still holds Mercedes ‘links’

Ocon expects this latest F1 ‘silly season’ to be “chaos” since 12 drivers are out of contract as it stands come the end of 2024, Ocon being one of said drivers.

Understandably, he assured that his full focus for the season ahead is on Alpine, as he knows that performing well will not only make the team interested in a renewal, but also attract interest from rivals.

“It is always the case that no matter if you have a contract or not, if you don’t perform in F1, you’re out, doesn’t matter what the problem is,” Ocon told media including PlanetF1.com’s Sam Cooper at the launch of Alpine’s F1 2024 challenger, the A524.

“Obviously I’m going into the year thinking I want to do the best I can and maximise the potential and if I do that at every race, there will always be opportunities and satisfaction by teams and there will be rumours and talks, and that’s a good thing. If you do a good job, there is always these kinds of things.

“But I’m completely dedicated to Alpine for this year and we’ll see what the future holds.”

Ocon was then pressed on whether one of those possible future opportunities could be Mercedes?

The Frenchman debuted in Formula 1 as a Mercedes junior back in 2016, and while his career since has never brought him into the Mercedes team, Ocon confirmed that he is still under their roof and so the “links” very much remain.

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“It’s clear that we have links with Mercedes,” Ocon confirmed. “I’m managed by Mercedes for a long time now, since 2015.

“I’m a junior, even if I’m not that junior anymore. But yeah, we’ll see what the future holds.

“As I said, at the moment, I’m completely dedicated to Alpine, what I have to do with the team and the plan that we have ahead as well.

“And that’s the whole focus I need to have, because these things are very disruptive focus-wise and that’s why I have a very competitive management team that’s able to take the right choices on where we have to be, so I’m not worried and my focus is on the track.”

A busy year awaits for Alpine on the driver contract front, with Ocon’s team-mate Pierre Gasly also into the final year of his deal.

Read next: Big Toto Wolff question asked ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s final Mercedes season