Mercedes confirm Ocon is a potential option for 2022 seat

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has included Esteban Ocon as a potential candidate for a seat in 2022.

After Lewis Hamilton only signed a one-year contract extension for this season, speculation immediately turned to next year and whether the Briton or teammate Valtteri Bottas would be replaced.

The names most widely mentioned as alternatives are George Russell and Max Verstappen, but the Frenchman, who has long been associated with Mercedes, shouldn't be forgotten.

"Esteban is in the second year of a two-year contract with Renault and Alpine F1, and George is with Williams this year," Wolff told SpeedWeek.

"So we have some options for 2022, but until then our full support goes to Valtteri and Lewis. We will evaluate in the middle of the year whether there will be a change in 2022."

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Ironically, the team most touting Verstappen as a Mercedes option is Red Bull, who confirmed a potential escape clause in his contract and even claimed he'd be "top of the list" should Hamilton leave.

But now, team boss Christian Horner suddenly wants to play it all down.

“I think I’ve been around too long to worry too much about what others are doing,” the Red Bull team boss told Autosport.

“The most important thing for us is to concern ourselves with what we are doing, and it’s enormously important for ourselves, and obviously Max, to build on the potential we’ve shown. That’s our objective.

“I’m not really paying a great deal of attention to speculation.

“It’s ‘we need to control the things we have at our disposal and we need to maximise our own performance’ which is absolutely our combined objective for this year.”