Esteban Ocon “never scared” of Max Verstappen during karting rivalry

Esteban Ocon has reflected on his rivalry with Max Verstappen over the years.

(L to R): Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing and Esteban Ocon (FRA) Alpine F1 Team on the FanZone Stage. Formula 1 World
(L to R): Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing and Esteban Ocon (FRA)…

Esteban Ocon has shed light on his intense rivalry with Max Verstappen during karting.

Ocon and Verstappen were fierce rivals through the various junior categories, ultimately going head-to-head for the FIA Formula 3 European Championship in 2014.

The pair have had contrasting fortunes in F1 with Verstappen winning three titles and over 50 races, while Ocon has just one win to his name.

Speaking on the High Performance podcast, Ocon shed light on his rivalry with Verstappen and how he wasn’t scared of him, or his father, Jos.

"Everybody was a little bit scared of Jos and Max at the time because Jos was driving in F1 before and is known for how fierce and scary he can be, talking to other young kids at the go-kart tracks," Ocon said.

“But me and my dad were never scared because we just wanted to race. We raced hard, we raced really hard and at times, we crossed lines in certain races.

"Sometimes we didn't finish where we were supposed to because of how hard the fights were but that made me learn a lot on how to race and I hope it made him learn a good amount.

“We met again in F3 later, from karting in 2011, a three-year break and then we met in F3, racing for the title.

“There it was hard racing as well. I have always enjoyed racing with Max. Tough racing is always cool to me, side-by-side, being very close - that is what racing is all about and there is nothing else that makes me that excited.”

Ocon beat Verstappen to the F3 title in 2024 - but it was the Dutchman who made it into F1 first with Toro Rosso.

(L to R): Esteban Ocon (FRA) Alpine F1 Team and Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing in the FIA Press Conference. Formula
(L to R): Esteban Ocon (FRA) Alpine F1 Team and Max Verstappen (NLD) Red…

The Frenchman had to wait until the middle of 2016 to make his debut with the backmarker team, Manor.

Ocon conceded he was very frustrated by the fact Verstappen made it into F1 first.

"So I got into the Mercedes Junior Programme. From there on, it was back on route but from Max not winning the title and then finishing third and then going into F1 and then me not even having an option to continue racing, that was tough to swallow. I was very pissed off in those times. That was very difficult," he added.

"To me, it was not fair... not saying that I would go to F1 because I always believed that my time would come if I put hard work in, got the results.

"But in those moments, I wasn't sure that I was going to even continue racing and, for me, that wasn't fair.

"I am glad all those guys saw it wasn't fair and found solutions for me to continue."

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