Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul has hinted Esteban Ocon's promotion to a Manor race drive for the remainder of the 2016 Formula 1 season is an opportunity to evaluate him for a full-time seat with the French manufacturer in 2017.
Ocon will make his much anticipated F1 debut at the Belgian Grand Prix later this month after being called up to replace Rio Haryanto at Manor, the Frenchman being paired with fellow Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein.
However, while Ocon's career is ultimately managed by Mercedes after the German firm picked him up in a development role in 2015, it is with Renault that the 19 year-old had previously been tipped to join in 2017 having impressed in his role as reserve and test driver this year.
Indeed, Abiteboul says Renault is supportive of the decision to place Ocon at Manor – which uses Mercedes engines – and is particularly keen to see how he fares against another highly-rated youngster in Wehrlein.
“Esteban joining Manor Racing for the last nine races of the season demonstrates the excellent relationship the two teams, Renault Sport Formula One Team and Mercedes-Benz, have maintained for several years. It is an outstanding opportunity for Esteban to gather mileage and race experience in a young, stable and very professional team.
“Esteban will be up against a highly rated and quick teammate, which will enable us to evaluate him in a representative environment. I hope this experience will be of great benefit for him and for Renault in the near future.”
Similarly, Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff feels Ocon is in the ideal environment to establish himself in a team that has made significant strides in 2016.
“We are very pleased that this opportunity has opened up for Esteban, that Manor has again had the confidence to give a chance to a promising young talent and that the good collaboration between Mercedes-Benz and Renault has allowed this to come together. We have seen this year that, in the right circumstances, the Manor Racing car is capable of points.
“Manor is just the right environment for a young driver to get his first experience of F1: a professional, small team that is on a positive upward trend and where the driver can make a real difference. Esteban did an exceptional job in the works Mercedes at the Silverstone test and we are excited to see him take his first steps in an F1 race environment."