Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi has moved to clarify Esteban Ocon’s new three-year Formula 1 contract doesn’t feature any exit clause that would allow Mercedes to sign him.
On Wednesday it was announced Ocon had penned a long-term contract with Alpine that will see him remain at the team until the end of 2024.
Ocon, a former member of Mercedes’ junior programme, was believed to be an outsider for a seat at the German manufacturer next year having worked as its reserve driver back in 2019.
When asked to clarify his ties with Mercedes following his new deal, Ocon said, as quoted by Motorsport.com: “So, I’m completely a fully Alpine driver for the next three years – that’s where I stand at the moment.
“For sure, there’s still connections with Mercedes, but the job I’m doing is to be with Alpine, and fully with Alpine.”
Speaking in Friday’s FIA press conference ahead of this weekend’s French Grand Prix, Alpine boss Rossi was clear Ocon’s contract was long-term and had no clauses Mercedes could trigger to chase his future services.
“He is a Mercedes managed driver, that’s about it,” Rossi said.
“So he’s constantly under their management, but there’s no such clause [for] Mercedes [to] put him out of the team.
“No, he stays with us for the next three years.”
Ocon has started his second full season at Alpine in fine form, with four points finishes in the five races he has finished.
The Frenchman’s performances have led Rossi to draw comparisons with four-time world champion Alain Prost, praising Ocon’s work ethic on and off the track.
“He is a great fine tuner, he reminds me a lot of Alain,” Rossi said.
“He is very good at extracting the maximum out of the car, and it shows, constantly improving. He is damn fast too – give him any car he is fast, and he shows it every qualy. So that makes him a very good driver.
“He is a good teammate. He is good with the rest of the team. When I say teammate it is not just to other driver, also the rest of the team. He is basically pushing everyone up. He is a great guy to have in the team.”
Rossi said the length of the contract was down to him not wishing to see Ocon leave early, believing the deal is a good fit for both parties moving towards next year’s new regulations.
“It’s a three-year regulation period that opens up next year,” Rossi said.
“We have a mid-to-long-term view of things at Renault. We want to be here for a long time, so we wanted to secure that first step.
“The first step is three years. We’ve seen enough of Esteban, we know he is good. I don’t want to be here again, looking for another driver after two years. Recent past showed that it never really turns the right way – [if] you have a good driver, you want to keep them.
“So I think it’s good for us, it’s good for him. We have a long, long way to make progress, he buys into the project, and adds credibility to our project.
“For me it’s also a guarantee that we’re going to perform on the driver department. Esteban is arguably a top-10 driver minimum. So, we don’t make a big mistake here.
“For me it was a no brainer. It’s part of a long journey and Esteban fits into that mould quite well.”