2020 Renault 'biggest step in three or four years' says Ocon
Esteban Ocon says he learned a lot from his time as Mercedes' reserve driver last year, but it’s racing for Renault that he's really interested in. The Frenchman has been at his new team's factory plenty over the winter and he says the staff there reckon the car is “probably the biggest step in three or four years”.
Renault returned to F1 as a works outfit in 2016 and improved year-on-year for three campaigns before taking a step backwards in 2019. For 2020, they've drafted in new Technical Director (Chassis) Pat Fry – instrumental at former team McLaren – and signed Ocon on a two-year deal to replace Nico Hulkenberg.
Settling in to Renault has been seamless for Ocon, who was released early by Mercedes in order to gain crucial mileage at the end of season Abu Dhabi test with his new squad, for whom he was reserve driver in 2016.
“I knew, in the race team, let’s say 65/70% of the people,” said Ocon, who was speaking in Paris at the team’s season launch where they revealed renders of the new car.
“In the main factory there’s a lot of new people I met this year, but in the race team I knew 70% I’d say, so settling in again didn’t feel as hard as it did with new teams.
“I’ve had the best preparation [for a new season] in years,” he added. “I was very much involved in the development of this year’s car and now it’s exciting times because you didn’t see much here but it is pretty different. The guys at the factory say it’s probably the biggest step in three or four years, so it’s exciting times and I’m looking forward to getting on track.”
As he prepares to embark on his third season in F1, Ocon will get to drive the R.S.20 for the first time in anger when pre-season testing begins at Barcelona on February 19. Until then, we have Renault's tantalising teaser images.