Renault explain Ocon deal, claim Hulkenberg rejected 2020 contract

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Esteban Ocon has cut ties with Mercedes for the duration of his two-year deal at Renault, the team has stated.

This week, the grid for 2020 began to take shape with Valtteri Bottas announced at Mercedes with Ocon, who has spent this season as reserve driver, returning to Renault in place of Nico Hulkenberg.

With the Finn only signed on a one-year extension at the German manufacturer, however, the question was asked on Friday whether Mercedes would have first-choice on the French driver for 2021.

“He is a Renault driver,” team boss Cyril Abiteboul declared. “That is very clear. Mercedes will have absolutely no right on him for the duration of his contract.

“The small difference is that his management company happen to be a racing team and that is Mercedes.

“But it is a slightly different set-up from the set-up that we had with Carlos [Sainz Jr] last year. That was on a loan and not a contract with Red Bull, but he [Ocon] will be a fully-fledged Renault driver.”

His Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff later confirmed that is the arrangement agreed with Ocon.

“He is there for the next couple of years. He needs to perform in a works environment under the leadership of Renault and their guys and benchmarked against Daniel Ricciardo," the Austrian told Sky Sports.

“He’s not going to look at anyone else other than himself and Renault.”

As for Hulkenberg, his future is currently uncertain with as many as three options available to him for 2020.

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After his exit was announced, the German posted a message on Facebook suggesting performance was not the reason for it and that in fact, Renault chose Ocon because is French.

Team advisor and four-time Formula 1 champion Alain Prost challenged that claim, however.

"It's nice that Ocon is a Frenchman, but it would not be logical to make that a decisive factor," he told Canal Plus.

"Rather, it was decisive that we offered Nico Hulkenberg a one-year contract with an option for 2021, but he wanted a two-year contract, without an option.

"Without going into detail now: he did a great job for Renault, but after three years he saw that we were not making as fast progress on the chassis as we all hoped," Prost noted.

"We needed someone with more freshness, more enthusiasm. Esteban Ocon brings a whole new dynamic to the team."