When Esteban Ocon took his first-ever Formula 1 victory at this year’s Hungarian Grand Prix it was a feel-good story because it proved that hard-work and talent will preserve in the long run. Motor racing is an expensive business but coming from a humble background – his father runs a car repair garage – Ocon’s family never had big resources to help their son. A number of times the young Frenchman’s career has stalled due to the lack of cash.
When Ocon first started go-karting, his father would rummage in the rubbish skips at the back of the circuit in the hunt for fresh tyres that rich families had disposed of after just a handful of laps. Despite not being able to pay for the most expensive machinery, Ocon was quick – and consistent.
In early 2015, the financial tap had run dry and he was facing a future working with his father in the family garage business. Ocon decided to ask for help and telephoned Mercedes’s team boss Toto Wolff. “It was my last chance,” recalled Ocon. “I had nothing to lose.”
Wolff was aware of Ocon’s talent and enrolled him into the Mercedes young driver programme. He paid back the support by winning the Formula 3 (then GP3) support series, taking one race win and ten second places. As an intelligent driver who understands the bigger picture, Ocon will race to minimise risk and ensure a points finish.
When he made the step up to Formula 1, his good form continued as he was able to avoid incidents and get to the chequered flag in the first 27 races of his career – a current record.
But once again, he was faced with the threat that his journey in motor racing would be over. While driving for the Force India F1 Team, a new owner acquired the outfit in the summer of 2018. That was the businessman Lawrence Stroll, and he wanted his son Lance to take Ocon’s seat. As a result, the man from Normandy was on the sidelines once more.
But Ocon never gave up on his dreams and knew that he could perform at the highest level if given the chance. Renault came to his rescue and in 2021 and he now partners Fernando Alonso at the rebranded Alpine squad.
Ocon was given a lucky break when a first corner incident eliminated a number of drivers at the beginning of this year’s Hungarian Grand Prix. He took the lead but still had to withstand race long pressure from four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel behind him. He did manage to hold on to take a popular first Grand Prix victory to prove to the world that if you have the talent – never give up…