Renault-bound Esteban Ocon insists he’s benefited from his year as reserve driver for the Mercedes Formula 1 team, despite a lack of testing miles, and is now a “better package”.
Ocon, who will join he Renault team next year alongside Daniel Ricciardo, was given the Mercedes role when he was unable to find a race seat after Lance Stroll took his place at Racing Point.
His main job this season has been as a simulator driver at Mercedes’s Brackley base on race weekends, although he did get to drive the W13 for two days in last week’s 2020 Pirelli tyre test at Paul Ricard.
Due to the current rules, Ocon has been unable to conduct as many testing miles as he “would have liked”, but still feels his experience as a Mercedes reserve driver has proven beneficial to his development.
“A lot of things,” he said when asked by Autosport what he’d gained.
“I didn’t drive as much as I would have liked to. Back in those days you could test the cars and drive millions of kilometres before getting back in it.
“I’ve done that in the simulator. I did test all the parts that the team put on the weekend.
“So I am aware of all the latest news of the current generation of cars. I think that’s a positive thing.
“On the other side not being driving I could also learn the other part of the world of F1, which is more experience, more knowledge for me and more things learned for the future.
“Seeing what the team expect from a driver, some things you cannot think about when you are racing. Because you don’t hear the people speaking internally and all that.
“As Toto [Wolff] always says, the more things you see and the more knowledge you have for the future, the more experience that makes in the end.
“And that makes you a better athlete, also a better driver in the end, a better package.”
Ocon also says a year out of active competition has made him “more hungry” to return to action.
“This year has been tough mentally and on the emotion side as well, seeing those guys go so well and me being on the sideline,” he added.
“It’s not something that’s particularly great.
“But I think it can only make you stronger and more keen to come back, and I’m more hungry for when I come back.”
Although he was asked to do the Pirelli test by Mercedes, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says Ocon will be phased out of any work that focuses on next season.
“Esteban and I discussed how long he should stay in the various roles,” said Wolff.
“The longer you stay the more information you’re going to take with you. He said ‘of course I’m going to take all this information with me’.
“It’s a transition. He’s in our simulator, and that is an important role in helping us to develop the car.
“But step by step Esteban is going to fade out of the meetings about the future, about things that impact next year’s car or that we deem to be sensitive from the engineering or innovation point of view.”