Ocon on karting career: Everybody was a little bit scared of Jos and Max Verstappen

"We raced hard, we raced really hard and at times, we crossed lines in certain races."

by Sead Dedovic
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Ocon on karting career: Everybody was a little bit scared of Jos and Max Verstappen
© Clive Mason/Getty Images Sport

What is little known to F1 fans is that Esteban Ocon and Max Verstappen were fierce rivals during karting. The two raced for the F3 European Championship in 2014. Esteban Ocon discussed his rivalry with Verstappen during the High Performance Podcast. Although Max Verstappen has built a significantly better career, Esteban Ocon is also a great driver, and it's hard to compare anyone to the Dutchman given his qualities. 

Ocon emphasized that many were scared of Max Verstappen and Jos, looking at their approach. Jos Verstappen is known as an authoritative figure who advocates strict discipline. From a young age, he taught Max to be like that. Esteban Ocon confirmed that he was never afraid of them for a moment.

"Everybody was a little bit scared of Jos and Max at the time because Jos was driving in F1 before and is known for how fierce and scary he can be, talking to other young kids at the go-kart tracks," Ocon said, as quoted by crash.net

“But me and my dad were never scared because we just wanted to race. We raced hard, we raced really hard and at times, we crossed lines in certain races."

Ocon emphasized that he had some interesting battles with Verstappen, who even as a child was one of the best and had a similar mentality as he does now. Sometimes both of them crossed the line in their fights, but Esteban believes that it's all part of the sport and competition. Esteban also recalled moments from several years later when they fought for more serious things in F3.

"Sometimes we didn't finish where we were supposed to because of how hard the fights were but that made me learn a lot on how to race and I hope it made him learn a good amount.

We met again in F3 later, from karting in 2011, a three-year break and then we met in F3, racing for the title."- he continued.

Ocon, recalling all the moments, pointed out that he enjoyed competing with Max. The fact that they were always close to each other awakened an even greater competitive spirit in both of them.

Esteban Ocon was slightly better than Verstappen in F3, as he managed to win the F3 championship in 2014. However, the 27-year-old driver had to wait for his Formula 1 debut until 2016, while the Dutchman debuted in 2015.

Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing talks with Esteban Ocon of France and Force India and Sergio Perez of Mexico a
Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing talks with Esteban Ocon of France and Force India and Sergio Perez of Mexico a© Dan Istitene/Getty Images Sport
 

He felt frustrated by the fact that Verstappen reached Formula 1 before him, despite Ocon's victory. Ocon explained that he was upset because, after Verstappen's progression to F1, he faced uncertainty about his own racing future. He didn't necessarily expect immediate entry into Formula 1, but the situation left him unsure if he would continue racing.

This is what frustrates you, especially when you are such a young driver. You watch your colleague, whom you were better than in some stages of your career, while you wait for your debut, surely it's not something that brings you joy. However, Ocon used those moments as motivation to continue his career.

Despite his frustrations, Ocon expressed gratitude to those who recognized the unfairness of the situation and worked to find solutions that allowed him to continue his racing career.

Esteban Ocon's career

Esteban Ocon made his debut for Manor Racing in the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix, replacing Rio Haryanto. Following that chapter of his career, the Frenchman continued with Force India/Racing Point in 2017. In 2019, the 27-year-old driver became a reserve driver for Mercedes, but after just a year, he found a seat with Renault and has remained with the team ever since.

Esteban Ocon competing for Manor in 2016
Esteban Ocon competing for Manor in 2016© Dan Istitene/Getty Images Sport
 

Interestingly, Esteban Ocon also achieved one victory in his career, surprising everyone. It was at the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix. Ocon was surprised by his results, expressing amazement. It's difficult to say whether Ocon fulfilled his potential, but he could certainly have achieved more in his career. Nevertheless, simply being part of Formula 1, alongside the best drivers in the world, confirms his quality and speaks volumes about how successful Ocon is.

Before the start of this season, Ocon warned team leaders that they must progress, considering their competitors have taken a step ahead.

Ocon emphasized the importance of improving the performance of the car, noting that certain teams have been more successful in advancing and implementing stronger updates. He stressed the need for his team to address this issue and strive for improvement. Additionally, Ocon mentioned that they are already focusing on development for the 2024 car in the simulator, which they initiated earlier in the year.

Max Verstappen
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