Despite Renault pulling out of a deal to sign Esteban Ocon last season, Mercedes principal Toto Wolff insists they didn’t lose trust in the team.
The French manufacturer had agreed to take Mercedes’ reserve driver Ocon for 2019, but when Daniel Ricciardo became available and interested in joining the team, they cooled their interest in Ocon.
That left Ocon without a drive for 2019, much to the frustration of Wolff following the collapse of Force India.
However, Wolff insists that he continued to trust Renault and their principal Cyril Abiteboul, and now Ocon will indeed move to Renault for 2020 and 2021, replacing Nico Hulkenberg.
“No, we never lost the trust,” Wolff told Motorsport.com. “There are so many common things that we discuss between Renault and Mercedes, where we discuss how the sport should go, and that as much as the situation on Esteban affected us and we let some words slip, this is part of the game.
“There were phases where we were upset with each other, but then you need to move on. It hasn’t changed anything on the respect I have for Cyril, and the respect I have for Renault as a brand. That’s why we moved on. We need to play hard and forgive quickly.”
“I was not feeling extremely comfortable at the way things developed last year,” he admitted.
“Certainly it was absolutely not a good thing, but it was clearly not our intention to leave this guy [Ocon] behind, and to trigger the chain reaction that our decision to seize the opportunity of Daniel would cause.
“I don’t think we can provide all the details, but I think it’s been a whole dynamic probably was not well handled last year by our two companies.
“And that’s why I think we’ve done better this year, I think we’ve been a bit clearer with each other about parameters and timing, and we simply stick to timing and deadlines.
“I think it’s been an extremely fluid discussion, it’s been extremely transparent, with one simple objective.”