A brief biography of Force India driver Esteban Ocon, including his career history and Formula One statistics
As one of the youngest drivers on the grid in Formula One, it seems no time at all since Esteban Ocon was first finding his feet in the world of motorsport with his earliest steps in karting. He began racing in the French Minime Championship in 2006, and the following year won the title before moving on to the French Cadet Championship in 2008. After that he started making his first appearances on the international stage, and in 2011 he won the French KF3 title and was runner-up in the WSK Euro Series.
Ocon moved into single seater racing in 2012 in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 with Koiranen Motorsport which he combined with a part-time campaign in Formula Renault 2.0 Alps. The following season he switched to the ART Junior team and claimed his first Eurocup victory at his home round at Le Castellet on his way to finishing in third place in that year's championship standings. He also made his Formula Three début the same year and was finished in the top-ten in the prestigious Macau round with Prema Powerteam.
Ocon was duly signed up to the Lotus F1 junior team as he embarked on a full season in the FIA F3 Euro championship in 2014 with Prema. It was a breakout performance for him as he clinched nine wins, 21 podiums, 15 pole positions and seven fastest laps on his way to clinching the title from Britain's Tom Blomqvist and a certain Max Verstappen. The same year, Ocon also made his first appearance in a Formula One Grand Prix weekend when he turned out for Lotus in free practice at the season finale in Abu Dhabi.
By now, Ocon had caught the eye of Mercedes who made him a part of their junior driver programme in 2015, securing him a role as test driver at Force India although he wasn't to make any further Formula One practice appearances that year. Instead Ocon spent the year competing in the GP3 Series, where despite winning only one race (in Catalunya at the start of the season), a remarkable run of 11 consecutive podium positions - all but one of them in second place - saw him narrowly beat Luca Ghiotto to the title in his rookie season.
Keen to develop the teenager's evident talent, Mercedes lent him out to the Renault F1 team as a reserve driver for 2016 while also giving him experience in DTM. Ocon took part in Formula One free practice at Catalunya, Silverstone, the Hungaroring and Hockenheim while also playing a part in Mercedes' test programme. The only question now seemed to be which team would sign him up for a full-time seat in 2017, but it turned out that Ocon didn't even have to wait that long: when Rio Haryanto's sponsorship dried up mid-season, Ocon was handed the chance to take over and make his maiden Grand Prix appearance with Manor Racing at Spa-Francorchamps where he compared favourably with his team mate, fellow Mercedes protégé Pascal Wehrlein.
For 2017 Ocon takes over the vacant Force India seat left after Nico Hulkenberg left.