F1 2019: Esteban Ocon to serve as Mercedes reserve driver
Frenchman to provide back-up to Hamilton and Bottas in 2019 but likelihood of some test outings for Mercedes
By James Galloway in Abu Dhabi
Last Updated: 23/11/18 1:32pm
Esteban Ocon will serve as Mercedes' reserve driver in 2019 ahead of what the Frenchman hopes will be a return to the grid in 2020.
With the second Williams seat going to Robert Kubica this week, Ocon's faint hopes of staying in a racing role next season ended, but Mercedes have stressed their long-term commitment to the 22-year-old Frenchman since it became clear he would lose his drive at Force India.
So, as expected, F1's world champions have confirmed him as their reserve and third driver for 2019 to support Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas - with the added potential bonus of some testing outings.
"The plans are pretty clear," said Toto Wolff, Mercedes' team principal, in Abu Dhabi.
"He's going to be very close to the works team, he's going to be our reserve and third driver. We hope to maybe do the odd test with him also, we are looking at pre-season and an in-season, but that is not sorted out yet.
"He will spend a lot of time in the simulator and be ready for 2020."
Mercedes subsequently formally confirmed the news on social media.
Wolff, who signed Ocon to Mercedes' young driver programme in 2015, has repeatedly stressed confidence that the Frenchman will be back on the grid in 2020. Mercedes themselves could promote Ocon to a race seat alongside Hamilton if Bottas' contract option is not taken up at the end of next season.
Sky F1's Abu Dhabi GP schedule
Saturday, November 24
9.45am: Abu Dhabi GP Practice Three build-up LIVE!
10am: ABU DHABI GP PRACTICE THREE LIVE!
12pm: Abu Dhabi GP Qualifying build-up LIVE!
1pm: ABU DHABI GP QUALIFYING LIVE!
Sunday, November 25
11.30am: Pit Lane LIVE!
12.30pm: On The Grid LIVE!
1.10pm: THE ABU DHABI GP LIVE!
Sky Sports F1 is the only place to watch every Formula 1 Grand Prix, qualifying and practice session live in 2018. Get Sky Sports F1.