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Ocon Verstappen Karting Rivalry

Ocon’s Karting Duels with Verstappen: A Fierce Rivalry

20/03/2024

Esteban Ocon reflects on his competitive karting days with Max Verstappen, highlighting their intense rivalry and mutual growth through racing.

Esteban Ocon recalls sharing moments of competition with Max Verstappen in karting and then in the European Formula 3 in 2014. The Alpine F1 driver appreciated the chance to compete against the Dutchman, who was a Formula 1 driver’s son, from their karting days.

“It was very intense, but at the time, everyone was somewhat afraid of Jos and Max, because Jos had raced in Formula 1, and he was known for his fierceness and the intimidation he could impose when speaking to other young kids and all that on the karting tracks,” Ocon stated on the High Performance podcast.

“But my father and I were never scared, because we just wanted to race. We wanted to go all out, and we did, truly all out. And sometimes, we crossed lines, you know, in some karting races.”

“All this allowed me to learn a lot about racing, and I hope it allowed him to learn a lot too. We ended up in F3 later, after leaving karting in 2011, a three-year break, and then we found ourselves back in F3, racing for the title, and there, it was also a tough race.”

“I’ve therefore enjoyed the races with Max, I always have, I think. You know, tough races are always cool for me, very close side-by-side racing. That’s what racing is. There’s nothing else that excites me as much.”

“The program I was in had no money”

Ocon’s Fight for a Seat: Navigating Motorsport’s Uncertainties

After winning the title against Verstappen in 2014, Ocon struggled to find a seat in motorsport, and he admits being frustrated that the Dutchman went straight to F1: “That’s when things were out of our control, let’s say. And that’s when I was about to work with my father, as a mechanic.”

“Because the program I was in, called Lotus F1 Team Junior and Gravity Sport Management, had no money for me to continue at the time and in this transition from 2014 to 2015, I was constantly on the phone calling Toto Wolff at the time and asking him if there were any solutions for me.”

“I met him during that year, because I won with the Mercedes engine in Formula 3. With Gwen [Lagrue, Mercedes driver program advisor], Toto, and Fred Vasseur, we found a solution for us to continue racing in GP3, and I also won the title.”

“So, I joined the Mercedes junior program and, from there, I was back on the road. But the fact that Max didn’t win the title, finished third, went to F1, and I didn’t even have the chance to continue racing was hard to swallow, for sure, and I was very upset at the time.”

“It was very, very hard because, for me, it wasn’t fair. I’m not saying I’d go to F1, because I always believed my time would come, that if I worked hard enough and got results, my time would always come.”

“But at that moment, I wasn’t even sure I could continue racing and, for me, that wasn’t fair. I’m glad Toto, Gwen, Fred, all those guys saw it wasn’t fair and found solutions for me to keep racing.”

Ocon Verstappen Karting Rivalry. Ocon Verstappen Karting Rivalry

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