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Analysis

What's next for Esteban Ocon in F1 after Alpine departure?

After his departure from Alpine at the end of 2024 was announced on Monday, Esteban Ocon has now become a key player in Formula 1's congested 2025 marketplace.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine F1 Team

The Frenchman's five-year stay at the Enstone outfit has yielded a race victory and two further podium finishes, achievements that will ensure that he is coveted by a handful of teams with seats available for next season.

Speaking at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, before his impending Alpine departure was announced, Ocon stated that "the important thing is to be secure as early as possible," as he was keen not to suffer a repeat of 2019 - where he was left on the sidelines when Racing Point/Force India replaced him with Lance Stroll.

"I don't want to pay the price a second time, like there was at the end of 2018, which was not a good memory and was not for performance reasons," he said.

"I think I'm doing a good job again this year and for the years that I've done in F1, I deserve to have a place [on the grid]."

PLUS: Why Ocon retains the approach forced on him by his “crazy journey”

Unlike his predicament in late 2018, Ocon has time to secure a seat on the grid for next season. There are some berths that are more likely targets than others, although he will be able to lean on his management team - led by Toto Wolff - for assistance in the market.

Haas - part of an all-new line-up with Bearman?

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A524, Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-24, Logan Sargeant, Williams FW46

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A524, Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-24, Logan Sargeant, Williams FW46

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Ocon is known to be on Haas' wishlist for 2025. The American team is assessing its options in the wake of Nico Hulkenberg's announced departure to Sauber. It is expected that Ferrari reserve Oliver Bearman will take one of the seats, having impressed team principal Ayao Komatsu with his work ethic and performances in FP1 for the team.

Haas is not keen to repeat the travails of 2021 with an all-rookie line-up; the pairing of Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin hurt the team's bank balance with heavy repair bills, in a period when the team was up against it financially. Kevin Magnussen's return when Mazepin was dropped on the eve of the 2022 season gave the team positive affirmation that retaining at least one experienced driver was preferable.

With Bearman assumed to be on the cusp of securing one seat, that leaves Ocon battling against Magnussen for the second. The Dane has been largely outperformed by Hulkenberg across their one-and-a-bit seasons together, raising questions about his consistency - and driving standards - in the process.

Magnussen's retention thus hinges on whether Komatsu values continuity in 2025's line-up. If Bearman's time working with the team is deemed sufficient, then Ocon might just get the nod. Given Haas' uptick in performance this year, it would be a much more attractive proposition to Ocon than previously, and the opportunity to be the de facto lead driver while Bearman learns his craft might render it a more compelling prospect.

Sauber/Audi - a manufacturer option, but depends on Sainz's movements

Valtteri Bottas, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber C44, is returned to the garage

Valtteri Bottas, Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber C44, is returned to the garage

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

The gig at Sauber - which will become Audi in 2026 - is fully dependent on what Carlos Sainz decides to do with his post-Ferrari career. He is currently considering offers from both Sauber and Williams, and his ultimate decision will play as the tipping point as the dominoes prepare to fall.

Should Sainz be sufficiently impressed by James Vowles' masterplan and joins Williams, then Ocon would be the next logical option for Sauber. It appears certain that the Swiss outfit will not retain either Valtteri Bottas or Zhou Guanyu, so competition does not appear to be particularly forthcoming.

Ocon would be well-placed to walk into a manufacturer team, and partnering Hulkenberg at the squad would ensure Audi boasts a strong line-up when it makes its full-factory entry into F1. But this is a drive that Ocon would potentially have to wait for, with the risk of exposing himself to a similar degree of unease as that he faced in the lead-up to 2019. 

An amusing side note is that Ocon has replaced Hulkenberg twice in his career: at Force India when the German moved onto Renault, and then at Renault for 2020 when Hulkenberg was dropped. What chance their parallel careers finally converge at the same team?

Mercedes - a colossal long shot, but one with association

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

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

Photo by: Motorsport Images

It seems that Mercedes has its eggs in the Andrea Kimi Antonelli basket as Ferrari-bound Lewis Hamilton's replacement for 2025, hence the private testing programme that the 17-year-old Italian is currently running through. Having missed out on securing Max Verstappen for the Mercedes junior team in 2014 as he didn't have a seat to offer him, Toto Wolff does not want to endure the same issue with Antonelli. 

Antonelli isn't having the easiest time in F2, although much of that appears to be down to Prema's initial miscues with understanding the demands of the new Dallara chassis. But he has the superlicence points regardless if he was to earn a promotion to Mercedes' F1 team to fill Hamilton's vacant seat.

But if there was any doubt about Antonelli, Ocon would be a worthwhile call-up. He's already managed by Wolff, and still retains ties to Mercedes' junior programme having joined the set-up in late 2015. As a stop-gap option, should Antonelli be considered not ready, Ocon would fit the bill. But it's unlikely, given the German manufacturer's zeal in getting its highly-rated youngster prepared for an F1 berth.

It is understood that Williams is not currently pursuing Ocon; both Sainz and Bottas appear to be at the top of the team's shortlist as Vowles seeks an ambitious option to partner Alex Albon at the team. Lance Stroll is expected to stay at Aston Martin, and both Red Bull and RB look likely to maintain the status quo. 

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