Friday, 14 september 2018, 05:19 , by Paul Macdonald
Daniel Ricciardo has insisted that he didn't intend to 'screw' Esteban Ocon with his 2019 move to Renault, as the Frenchman looks set to miss out on a seat for next season as a number of driver moves freeze him out.
A hugely active driver market, coupled with a takeover of Force India by Lance Stroll's father which will likely see him take Ocon's seat there, has seen his options narrow as more and more teams finalise their line-ups.
Ocon was all set to move to Renault before Ricciardo made the surprise switch out of Red Bull and the Aussie admitted that his move had contributed to Ocon's plight, but stressted that his situation isn't indicative of a problem for younger drivers in modern F1 cars.
He said at a press conference yesterday: "The Ocon situation, I didn’t do it to screw him. But the effect of my move has put him in a bit of a position now.
“I don’t know, I wouldn’t say the young driver thing because we have more younger drivers in the field than ever before. I feel old at 29. There’s kids below their 20s in F1. I don’t think it’s harder.
“There’s political stuff, there’s financial stuff, that’s always involved but I genuinely believe that pretty much the vast majority of the grid now is based around talent. I don’t think the sport’s in a bad place at all.”
With Lando Norris joining McLaren, Charles Leclerc being granted a seat at Ferrari and a whole host of other drivers desperate for a seat, but Ricciardo doesn't feel that Ocon's predicament is any different to what has happened previously, with good drivers regularly losing out on seats.
He added: "I don’t know Ocon’s situation. If he doesn’t have a drive next year, sure he’s worthy of a drive.
“But I wouldn’t say he’s the first guy that’s missed it. It’s happened before that drivers with the talent have lost out. If he didn’t have a seat, do I think that’s the end of his F1 career? No, I don’t.
“I feel it’s always gone on, and it’s unfortunate. I don’t think it’s necessarily in a different place to what it has been.”