Esteban Ocon (Prema Powerteam) is the new FIA Fórmula 3 European Champion. Thus, the 18-year-old Frenchman follows in the footsteps of last year’s European Champion Raffaele Marciello, but other than the Italian, he already won the title in his maiden season in Fórmula 3. With nine victories so far this season, Lotus Fórmula 1 junior driver Ocon already scored the biggest success of his career to date with three races to spare.
Esteban Ocon and his predecessor Raffaele Marciello have quite a few things in common: both raced for the Prema Powerteam and both have been protégés of a Fórmula 1 team for many years. Marciello is still a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, while Ocon has been enjoying support from Lotus since his days racing go-karts.
After a successful career in karting, the Frenchman spent two seasons in the Fórmula Renault 2.0 Eurocup and ended up a strong third overall after his second season. At only 17 years of age, he made his Fórmula 3 debut during the Macau Grand Prix in 2013. At the extremely demanding circuit, the Frenchman caught the attention right away with good overtaking moves and fast lap times. Over the winter, the ambitious teeanager matured into an outstanding driver, which he already proved by winning the second race in the FIA Fórmula 3 European Championship season opener at Silverstone. Until the meeting at the Hungaroring, he managed to win at least one race every weekend and pulled clear from the rest of the field in the championship standings more and more.
After the strong spell of his fiercest rival Max Verstappen (Van Amersfoort Racing), who managed to win six races in a row at Spa-Francorchamps and at the Norisring, Ocon countered with three wins at Moscow, where he also managed to claim all three pole positions. He headed home from the Russian capital with an advantage of more than 100 points. At the Red Bull Ring and the Nürburgring, the FIA Fórmula 3 European Championship points’ leader again had a brief drought and had to wait until Imola before he scored another race win. At the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, third place in the third race was enough for him to wrap up the FIA Fórmula 3 European Championship title early.
“I simply don’t know what to say. Prior to the season, I never expected such a year. I am totally happy and I am already looking forward to my first test in a Fórmula 1 car that I will do at the end of October with Ferrari,” the newly-crowned champion enthused. During the season, he never really thought about a possible title win. “I tried to work from one race to another, because then, you get less nervous and you stay more relaxed”.
When looking back upon the season, the rather quiet Ocon rates his home round at Pau as his favourite memory. “The Saturday at Pau was my personal highlight of the season. On that day, I claimed two pole positions and won one race. That victory was particularly beautiful as it was my home race.” Ocon has rather less fond memories of the Red Bull Ring weekend: “There, things simply didn’t work and I made mistakes as well. However, I have learned from these mistakes and I have improved as a result. Prior to the season, I already knew that not all the races would be perfect. The field is simply too strong for that”.
Ocon doesn’t come from a well-to-do family and therefore, he is very grateful to the Lotus Fórmula 1 team for having supported him since 2010. “Had it not been for them, I certainly wouldn’t be here. They are supporting me wherever they can. Because I want to benefit from this great chance and because I simply love motorsport, I am always 200 percent committed,” says Ocon, who, next to his ambitions in motorsport and his many sporting activities is also still in school. “I am in some kind of home school and I intend to continue that as long as possible. After all, one never knows how things will go in motorsport and a solid education never does any harm”.
At the moment, however, there is no need for him to worry, even though Gwen Lagrue, who is responsible for the Lotus team’s junior programme, isn’t yet able to say what the career path for his protégé Esteban Ocon will hold for next year. The eventual goal of the Lotus support scheme remains to prepare Ocon for Fórmula 1. In the week after Imola, the young Frenchman, who names motocross rider Ryan Villopoto and sprint star Usain Bolt as his role models, will already get a first taste of the top category as he will be in the Lotus Fórmula 1 simulator for the first time. Lagrue: “He simply deserves that”.
Photos: FIA F3 Euro Series