Esteban Ocon feels it is unfair to consider a potential move to Williams for 2019 as being a downgrade as the Mercedes youngster pushes to remain in Formula 1 for next season.

Ocon is at risk of being without a seat for 2019 after seeing possible deals with both Renault and McLaren fall through over the summer. His existing team, Force India, is set to sign current Williams racer Lance Stroll as his replacement to partner Sergio Perez following its takeover by a consortium led by his father, Lawrence Stroll, in August.

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Williams acts as Ocon’s last realistic shot of remaining on the F1 grid next year, but the Frenchman said he did not consider the team to be a downgrade on Force India despite its current on-track struggles that have seen it slip to the foot of the constructors’ table.

“There are talks with Williams obviously. Yeah, the talks are there, but no, I can’t say it would be a downgrade,” Ocon said when asked if he saw a possible move as a downgrade.

“Williams is a great team. They have been world champions in the past, they have been fighting with us hard last year, and they’re having tough times, but all teams have tough times.

“So no, I disagree.”

Should Ocon not join Williams for 2019, he is likely to spend a year in a reserve role with Mercedes, but he vowed that if this was the case, he would make a return for 2020.

“For sure, it could be an option to be on the bench next year, but even if that’s the case, I would be back in ’20 and I would be back stronger and prepared,” Ocon said.

“At the moment, the only thing I see is Formula 1. It is not true I will be on the bench yet. Of course there is nothing signed yet, I don’t have a contract. We will see how things evolve.

“For the moment, for 2019, what I want is to come back. If that’s not the case, if I’m not racing in ’19, I want to come back in ’20.”

Ocon took to social media on Wednesday to defend Stroll, who faced criticism over his looming move to Force India, and explained in Sochi how he felt the comments against his friend had been unfair.

“I did that because Lance is my best mate in the paddock, and we have a great relationship for a long time,” Ocon said.

“What’s happening, people took it like as if it was his fault, but it was not his fault or anything. He’s working 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.

“Of course we come from a different background, but inside, we have the same motivation, and we have the same passion for the sport. So I wanted to share that with everyone.

“Just to see all the hate I saw on social media, it’s not normal. I think it’s better to show your support more than hate.”



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