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Ocon replaces Haryanto at Manor

10 Aug 2016

Mercedes protege Esteban Ocon is Pascal Wehrlein’s new team mate after Manor announced that they have terminated Rio Haryanto’s race deal, following the Indonesian rookie’s failure ‘to meet his contractual obligations’.

Nineteen-year-old Frenchman Ocon, who will make his maiden F1 race appearance in Belgium later this month, has been Renault’s reserve driver this season, combining the role with his DTM campaign for Mercedes-AMG. Prior to that he won the FIA F3 Euro championship in 2014, and the GP3 Series in 2015.

“I’m thrilled that I’ll be making my Grand Prix debut with Manor Racing later this month, and at Spa, of all circuits, which is the next best thing to my home race,” said Ocon. “I’m ready for this exciting step up, thanks to the experience I’ve gained as a Formula One reserve driver this season.

“I’d like to thank Renault Sport F1 Team and Mercedes-Benz for working together to make this happen, and to Manor Racing for the opportunity, which I’m going to grab with both hands.

“I’ve visited the Manor Technical Centre already, for my seat fit and to meet with the wider team, so we’ll be ready to hit the ground running after the summer break. They’ve done a great job this season and I’m excited that I’ve been tasked with helping them to build on that progress. I can’t wait to get started!”

Commenting on Ocon’s appointment, Manor’s racing director Dave Ryan said: “We are very pleased to welcome Esteban to Manor Racing for the remainder of the season. He is clearly one of the rising stars of F1, shining in his reserve driver role with Renault, while also competing in the DTM with Mercedes-AMG this year.

“Our team has made significant strides in 2016, including finishing in the points for the first time in Austria last month. We need to maintain our pace of development in order to achieve our ambitions, not only for this season but also for the longer-term, so the calibre of a replacement is key. We’re confident that when Esteban makes his Grand Prix debut in Spa, we will have a very potent line-up with which to take the fight to our immediate competitors for the rest of the season.”

Though dropping him from a race seat, Manor have given Haryanto - whose best result was 15th in Monaco - an F1 lifeline, with an offer of a reserve driver role for the remaining nine rounds of the 2016 FIA Formula 1 World Championship.

“Rio has been a much-valued member of our team since January, when we signed a contract with him for this season,” added Ryan. “Some time ago, his management indicated that they were experiencing difficulties honouring the obligations of that contract beyond the Hungarian Grand Prix.

“Rio’s team have worked tirelessly to try to resolve that situation with his Indonesian backers and we have supported those efforts as much as possible, including allowing Rio to race in Germany. Unfortunately we reached a point where, in the best interests of the team, we were forced to explore other options for the remainder of the season.

“We are very pleased to continue our support for Rio’s Formula One ambitions, by offering him a reserve driver role for the rest of the current season. We very much hope that he will accept that offer.”

Ocon, meanwhile, has made three Friday practice appearances for Renault this year - in Spain, Great Britain, Hungary and Germany - as well as testing for Mercedes at Silverstone last month, and both teams hope to benefit from his new role at Manor.

“It is an outstanding opportunity for Esteban to gather mileage and race experience in a young, stable and very professional team,” said the Renault team’s managing director Cyril Abiteboul.

“Esteban will be up against a highly rated and quick team mate, which will enable us to evaluate him in a representative environment. I hope this experience will be of great benefit for him and for Renault in the near future.”

Toto Wolff, head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport, added: “We are very pleased that this opportunity has opened up for Esteban, that Manor has again had the confidence to give a chance to a promising young talent and that the good collaboration between Mercedes-Benz and Renault has allowed this to come together.

“We have seen this year that, in the right circumstances, the Manor Racing car is capable of points. Manor is just the right environment for a young driver to get his first experience of F1: a professional, small team that is on a positive upward trend and where the driver can make a real difference.

“Esteban did an exceptional job in the works Mercedes at the Silverstone test and we are excited to see him take his first steps in an F1 race environment."