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Ocon retains "strong links" to Mercedes amid Hamilton F1 replacement rumours

Alpine Formula 1 driver Esteban Ocon says he retains “strong links” to Mercedes amid speculation that he is a contender to replace Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton for 2025.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG and Esteban Ocon, Alpine F1 Team attending the FIA press conference

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Ocon is out of contract at Alpine at the end of this season. He was signed by the Mercedes junior programme during his 2015 title-winning GP3 Series campaign and given his relationship with the team’s boss Toto Wolff, he is seen as a candidate to replace Hamilton.

Addressing the speculation for the first time, Ocon said he had always maintained “strong links” to Mercedes but stressed that he remains “totally dedicated” to his current employer, Alpine.

Speaking during Wednesday’s launch of the Alpine A524 at Enstone, Ocon said: “I've always had strong links with Mercedes. I'm still a Merc junior driver.

“This has always been, even if I'm not that junior anymore. I'm still contracted with them at some stage. So, it is how it is. We will see.

“At the moment, I'm totally dedicated to Alpine. That's my focus.

“I need to do a good job on track as always. Every year is a crucial year in F1 because it doesn't matter if you have a contract or not. If you don't perform, you can be out. That's how it is.

“If you do a strong job there will be always talks, rumours and good things for you. As long as we talk about you, it means that what you do on track is good.”

Esteban Ocon, Alpine

Esteban Ocon, Alpine

Photo by: Alpine

Ocon reckoned that Hamilton’s Ferrari switch had “surprised everyone” and that “nobody was expecting something like that during the winter”.

However, his team-mate Pierre Gasly - whose current deal also runs out at the end of this year - reckoned he was aware of Hamilton’s talks with Ferrari and that the news had been kept secret for some time.

Gasly commented: “Obviously he's been a long time with Mercedes, but I was aware of some talks with Ferrari.

“Ultimately, he's towards the end of his career. So, it was either now or never.

“I think it was kept secret for quite a long time.

“I just wish him the best. Obviously, it's sort of exciting… I think ultimately for the sport, he is the most successful driver of all time joining a new project, a new challenge. I'm sure everybody will follow that very closely.

He added: “I think there was an opportunity on both sides. And I think Ferrari and Lewis took it together. Obviously, it leaves Carlos [Sainz, who Hamilton will replace] in a more tricky situation. It's not easy.”

Additional reporting by Jonathan Noble

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