Just hours after Mercedes announced that Valtteri Bottas would be staying with the team, Renault have also announced that Esteban Ocon will team up with Ricciardo for 2020 replacing Nico Hulkenberg.
It had been rumored for a few weeks now that the Frenchman, who was originally linked to a Mercedes seat, would return to the team with which he was a reserve driver from 2015/16.
“First and foremost, I am very proud to become a Renault driver,” said Ocon. “I have grown up at Enstone, starting with Lotus in 2010 and then with Renault. I am very attached to this team and everyone who works there; they are the ones who opened the doors of top level motorsport for me.
“Secondly, I am pleased that a team with big ambitions has entrusted me with the opportunity to once again demonstrate my skills at the highest level of F1. It is a responsibility I take very seriously. The confidence they have in me to help the progression of the team is a very positive pressure and I look forward to giving the best of myself.”
Ocon got his F1 debut mid-way through 2016 replacing Rio Haryanto as part of a move to the Mercedes junior program. He then moved to Force India for 2017/18 but was forced out when Lance Stroll moved their after his dad became majority stake holder in the team.
This move now puts Nico Hulkenberg in limbo although he has been linked to a drive at Haas replacing Romain Grosjean.
“I wish to thank Nico for his phenomenal involvement and massive contribution to our progress over the past three seasons,” said Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul. “When Nico decided to join us, the team was ninth. He brought us to fourth place last year, and was classified seventh in the drivers’ championship.
“The imminent end of his contract made this decision a difficult one as Nico has been a pillar of this progress. The first part of this season has been more challenging, but I know we can count on him and deliver together throughout the second half of the year.”
He added: “We are very happy to work with Esteban for the next two seasons. “Over his F1 career Esteban has experienced the highs and lows of the sport, and fully understood the need to seize every possible chance. In addition to lending his natural talent, Esteban’s aim will be to focus his natural energy and drive, both of which have been intensified by a year away from racing. It is then up to us to infuse them into the next phase of the team’s progress.“