Formula 1
Friday, Aug 30 07:45am
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Nico H├╝lkenberg out, Esteban Ocon in at Renault for 2020

After three seasons with Renault, German driver Nico Hülkenberg will leave the team to be replaced by Esteban Ocon.


The French driver will join Daniel Ricciardo of Australia for the 2020 season of the Formula 1 World Championship.


“First and foremost, I am very proud to become a Renault driver,” Ocon said. “I have grown up at Enstone, starting with Lotus in 2010 and then with Renault.


“I’m very attached to this team and everyone who works there; they are the ones who opened the doors of top level motorsport for me.


“Secondly, I am pleased that a team with big ambitions has entrusted me with the opportunity to once again demonstrate my skills at the highest level of Formula 1.


“It is a responsibility I take very seriously. The confidence they have in me to help the progression of the team is a very positive pressure and I look forward to giving the best of myself."


The 22-year-old was tipped for a drive at Mercedes, but after the Brackley based team opted to keep Valtteri Bottas for next year, Ocon took up an opportunity with Renault.


Hülkenberg attracted criticism from team boss Cyril Abiteboul after he crashed out while in contention for a maiden podium at his home German Grand Prix. Having made 170 starts in Formula 1 the 32-year-old holds the unenviable record of most Grand Prix races without a podium.


Ocon comes to the team after a year away of regular driving duties. A strong junior career saw success in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship and GP3 Series with titles in both as a rookie. That saw him surge to a test driver role with the Force India team (now Racing Point) in 2015.


In 2016 he dovetailed commitments in DTM with Mercedes and Renault test driver roles, and towards the end of the year made his Grand Prix debut with Manor Racing where he scored a season best 13th at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.


The following year he joined Force India and finished eighth in his first full season just behind teammate Sergio Perez. The 2018 season was much harder for the team, which struck financial difficulty and was sold mid-year. He went on to claim 12th in the standings but was still firmly in the sights of Mercedes for a future drive.


However, after he was left out of the Racing Point line-up for 2019 and took up a test driver role with Mercedes for the year.


With confirmation that Ocon will race for Renault and Bottas will stick with Mercedes, it all but confirms that George Russell is the favoured option for Mercedes to promote in years to come.


Hülkenberg is reportedly in line for a drive with the Haas F1 Team for 2020 if Romain Grosjean does end up leaving the team.