Is Esteban Ocon the nicest man in F1?
Force India driver expresses support for "best mate in the paddock" despite threat to his seat
By James Galloway in Sochi
Last Updated: 04/12/18 5:46pm
Esteban Ocon believes Lance Stroll has been subjected to undeserved "hate" on social media with the Canadian poised to take his Force India seat for 2019.
Stroll is in line to replace Ocon next season following his father's takeover of Force India, an expected move that has placed the Frenchman's F1 2019 future in serious doubt.
Ahead of this weekend's Russian GP, Ocon posted a picture of the two of them on a plane and urged fans to "please be respectful and show your support".
"I did that because Lance is my best mate in the paddock and we have a great relationship since a long time," Ocon told reporters.
"What's happening, it's not his fault.
"He is working as hard as much as I do to be in F1. In F1 everyone is working hard to be here - it's not an easy world. We come from a different background but inside we have the same motivation and the same passion for the sport.
"I wanted to share that with everyone. To see all the hate I saw on social media, it's not normal. It's better to show your support more than hate."
Despite his ties to Mercedes, who rate the Frenchman highly, the increasing likelihood is that Ocon will find himself without a race seat in 2019.
He confirmed he was in discussions with Williams and, when asked if the Grove team were now his only realistic option for next season, Ocon replied: "I think so."
Williams sit bottom of the Constructors' Championship, but Ocon suggested it would not represent a backwards career move.
"There are talks with Williams, but I can't say it would be a downgrade," he added. "Williams is a great team, they have been world champions in the past and they have been fighting with us hard last year. They are having tough times, but all teams have tough times."
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