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Mercedes 'still have connection' with F1 driver tipped to replace Lewis Hamilton – Express

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Mercedes could replace Lewis Hamilton with Esteban Ocon when the seven-time world champion decides to retire from Formula One with the team maintaining a connection to the Frenchman. Ocon was originally a junior driver at the Silver Arrows and his two major moves in F1 were brokered by team boss Toto Wolff, with the German guiding him through the early stages of his career. 
Ocon has enjoyed a solid career in Formula One so far, with the 26-year-old picking up 338 points in 105 race starts, representing Manor Racing in 2016, Force India and Racing Point between 2017 and 2018 before joining Renault (now Alpine) in 2020. His career highlight undoubtedly came in the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix where he claimed a shock win despite being in a midfield car. 
Much of his career has been strongly intertwined with Wolff and Mercedes having been part of their young driver academy. He even spent a year as the Brackley-based outfit’s test and reserve driver in 2019 as he took a year out from the sport after being dropped for Lance Stroll at Racing Point. The German has had a large say in most of his career moves, helping him remain in the sport despite some setbacks.
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Lewis Hamilton, Toto Wolff, Mercedes
Now, Ocon has confirmed he is still connected to Mercedes, giving rise to suggestions he could one day replace Lewis Hamilton. The team look yet to settle on a long-term replacement for the 103-time race winner for when he decides to retire meaning Ocon could be in with a fantastic shout given his history with the German manufacturer. 
“Yes, we talk, also because in career management I am always helped by Gwen Lagrue, a manager who also works with Mercedes,” Ocon told Motorsport.com when asked if he still maintained his relationship with Wolff. 
“So there is still this connection, even though I am an Alpine driver and my job is here today. I have a nice contract that expires at the end of 2024 and a very interesting future ahead of me.”
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Esteban Ocon
However, the French driver may face some difficulties if he wants to replace Hamilton, should the Brit decide to retire at the end of his contract next year. Ocon’s contract does not run out until the year after meaning Mercedes may look at cheaper free agents rather than buy him out at Alpine. 
Speculation over Hamilton’s replacement will only intensify over the next 12 months if the 37-year-old does not extend his current Mercedes contract. Ocon’s connections should give him a good opportunity of being the man to do so but there remains many hurdles in his way.
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