Ocon brushes off his lack of racing this year ahead of 2020 F1 return

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Esteban Ocon has played down any impact from spending a year on the sidelines at Mercedes, ahead of his Formula 1 return.

Previously, drivers who have spent a year out have had the chance to stay sharp with on-track testing but in Ocon's case, last week's Pirelli tyres test at Paul Ricard was his first time in an F1 car since Abu Dhabi last year.

Even so, he is sure that there is plenty he can take from the past nine months and apply it at his new home with Renault.

“Of course a lot of things,” he stated. “I didn’t drive as much as I would have liked to, back in those days you could test the car and drive millions of kilometres before getting back in, but I’ve done that in the simulator.

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“I have tested the parts for the team on the weekend, so I’m aware of all the latest news, the current generation of cars, and I think that’s positive.

“On the other side not driving, I have also seen the other side in the world of Formula 1, which is more experience, more knowledge for me for the future, seeing what the team expect from a driver, some things you cannot think about when you are racing.

“As [Mercedes boss] Toto [Wolff] always says, the more things you see, the more knowledge you will have for the future and the more experience makes you a better athlete, a better driver in the end as a better package.”

Of course, with his stint at Mercedes about to end, it means the team is having to adjust their relationship with Ocon between now and the end of the year.

“Well Esteban and I discussed it a week ago, how long he should stay in the various roles etc.,” Wolff explained.

“I said the longer you stay the more information you are taking with you and he said, of course, I’m going to take all this information with me.

“It’s a transition, he’s in our simulator, it’s an important role in helping us develop the car, but step by step Esteban is going to fade out of meetings about the future, about things that are going to impact next year’s car or that we deem to be sensitive from the engineering or innovation point of view.

“But he’s with us this season and does some very valuable work that we need in order to win this championship."

For Ocon, his return to the F1 grid also offers him the chance to prove he can take on the likes of Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen, both of whom have established themselves as the drivers to beat in the next generation.

“For sure. I look forward to race against those guys again, this year has been tough mentally, and on the emotion side as well, seeing those guys doing so well and me being on the sidelines is not something that’s particularly great," he admitted.

“But I think it can only make you stronger and more keen to come back, and hungry when I come back.”