Ocon out-qualified Pérez 17-4 in 2018 but the Mexican proved more consistent when it mattered in the race. Ocon scored four sixth-place finishes on the way to 12th overall and starred in Belgium – qualifying third and challenging for the lead on the opening lap. In contrast, he crashed into perennial rival Verstappen in Brazil while trying to un-lap himself from the race leader, an incident that denied the Dutchman victory and prompted a post-race scuffle.
Mercedes reserve driver and a return with Renault
However, the announcement of Daniel Ricciardo’s move to Renault and Lawrence Stroll’s take over of Force India had already left Ocon without a Formula 1 drive in 2019. Instead, he spent the season as Mercedes-Benz reserve driver before replacing Nico Hülkenberg in Renault’s race team for 2020.
Ocon was largely shaded by team-mate Daniel Ricciardo throughout the season, but the Frenchman did score his maiden podium. A clean drive in Sakhir as many others made mistakes earned him second place in the desert and gives him a solid platform to build on against Fernando Alonso in 2021.
Formula 1 race winner and renewed faith
Ocon was a close match for the two-time world champion during the 2021 season, narrowly separated in qualifying and race pace for the first half of the season. Alpine were quick to recognise Ocon’s talent, offering him a major 3-year contract extension that would keep him with the Renault owned team until 2024. A disappointing home grand prix quickly had naysayers doubting his future potential, but the Frenchman was the Alpine driver to capitalise on an off day for the top teams during the Hungarian Grand Prix.
A pre-race shower meant the race was wet for the start but a first-lap pile-up involving several top names brought the red flags out and delayed the race. By the time of the restart, the conditions were suitable for dries and the entire field pitted at the end of the formation lap for slicks, leaving pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton alone on the grid with intermediates for the restart. The glaring strategy error meant Ocon inherited the lead of the race and valiantly held off Sebastian Vettel with team-mate Alonso hampering the recovering efforts of the Mercedes driver. Ocon took his maiden win and another 13 points finishes all season, finishing just seven points off of his illustrious team-mate in the standings in 11th.
2022 played host to more heated exchanges between Ocon and Alonso, with their relationship as teammates facing more strain as the season progressed. With new technical regulations in place, Alpine were able to find good race pace and eventually leapfrogged to fourth in the constructors’ standings, beating out McLaren. Ocon remained consistent throughout the season, only finishing outside the top ten four times and eventually finishing ahead of Alonso in the drivers’ standings, claiming eighth.