MONTMELO – Mercedes has confirmed that it will support GP3 driver Esteban Ocon for the 2015 season following his split with Lotus at the beginning of the year.
Ocon, 18, is one of the brightest talents racing in junior motorsport at the moment. The Frenchman won last year’s FIA Formula 3 European Championship in 2014, beating current Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen to the title.
He looked poised to step up to either GP2 or Formula Renault 3.5 in 2015 with Lotus’ support, but after his deal with the team fell through, he sought refuge in GP3 with ART Grand Prix.
However, Mercedes has today announced that Ocon will enjoy support from the German marque in 2015 with a view to a closer relationship in the future.
Besides GP3, Ocon will also act as the official test and reserve driver for Mercedes in the DTM championship, Germany’s premier national touring car series, and “has signed a contractual option that could see him become a fully fledged Mercedes-Benz driver in the future”.
“Esteban is a mega-talented young guy and one of the stars of the future,” Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff said. “I’m pleased we’ve found a good path to continue his relationship with Mercedes-Benz, because we have a strong tradition of supporting the best young drivers with a view to their long-term potential.
“We will be watching Esteban’s progress with a lot of interest and I hope this year will be the first of many working together.”
Ahead of his debut in GP3 this weekend, Ocon expressed his delight with the new Mercedes deal, and hopes that it can spur him on to challenge for the series title in 2015.
“I’m really proud to have the support of Mercedes-Benz this season and that the Mercedes AMG DTM team has trusted me with the important role of test and reserve driver,” Ocon said.
“I spent last weekend with the DTM team in Hockenheim and hope that I can play a valuable role this year. But my main focus is on the opening races of the GP3 Series this weekend.
“I am proud to be racing with support from Mercedes-Benz and in a fantastic team like ART Grand Prix. I hope that I can compete for the title this year, starting with strong results in Barcelona.”
In his debut on a 450 Kawasaki, Adam Cianciarulo held off teammate Eli Tomac in a hotly contested final Main to win the Monster Energy Cup at Sam Boyd Stadium: One race; one win.
“My first thought was, ‘what I life I get to live,’ ” Cianciarulo told NBCSN after the race. “That whole race I knew (Eli) was behind me. We had a gap and I knew it was going to come down to the Joker Lane.”
For Cianciarulo, it was all about managing pressure. He earned the holeshot in the first and final Mains. In the first race, he lost his bike and the lead under the bridge. In the final Main, he withstood a fierce charge for 10 laps from one of the best riders ever in Supercross.
Tomac stalked Cianciarulo for eight laps. At one point, he made the pass, but Cianciarulo expertly executed a crossover move and retook the point in the same corner. Tomac knew he was going to have to change things up if he wanted to make a pass for the lead and the overall win.
“Going into the Joker, I couldn’t really ever make the pass stick, so I thought let me get in this thing a lap early and see if I can make the speed up on the track,” Tomac said after the race.
He had a reason to believe it would turn out in his favor because he used the tactic in the second Main and made up four spots on the track – advancing from seventh to fourth.
“Just the opportunity to race with Eli,” Cianciarulo continued from Victory Lane. “You know, he’s accomplished so much and just to be out there on the track with him. I’m just stoked to be out there with him.”
Cianciarulo would have been forgiven if he thought Las Vegas owed him something. Entering the Supercross season finale this year, he only needed a clean finish to win the 250 West championship. He crashed and handed the win over to Dylan Ferrandis, but instead of allowing that to frustrate him, Cianciarulo used it as motivation.
“(Winning this race) is a little bit of redemption, but to be honest with you I look at (the accident in) Vegas now after winning the outdoor motocross championship as something that helped me get there,” Cianciarulo said. “It’s helped me grow.”
With his overall win, Cianciarulo pocketed a $100,000 check. The payday could have been $1 million if any rider had been able to win all three Mains. Instead, three Mains featured three different riders. Tomac won the first Main, Malcolm Stewart the second, and Cianciarulo the third.
Tomac stormed to the lead in the first Main and was slicing through the field in Main 2 before he flipped his bike on a bad landing. He fell from challenging for the lead to 10th. Ten laps does not allow a lot of time to make up for a mistake, but Tomac was able to make up significant time by taking the Joker Lane one lap before Cianciarulo and Stewart.
Stewart would win the second Main, completing a comeback nine months in the making. Early in the Supercross season, he crashed hard in Phoenix and broke his femur.
“I’ve been waiting nine months for all this; I’m just having fun out there.” Stewart said at the end of Main 2. “We’ve got another race to go and hopefully we’re on the top step, but if not, we’re already making dreams come true. I’ve already marked things off my checklist. It was just to win a Main Event.”
Entering the final Main Cianciarulo, Tomac, and Stewart were in a dead heat in regard to points. Cianciarulo finished second in the first two Mains, Tomac had a 1-3 with Stewart at a 3-1. The battle would be a “winner takes all” scenario.
How they finished in the final Main determined the overall result with Stewart finishing third in the race and overall standings.
Vince Friese had the ride of his life. With a 4-5-5, he finished fourth.
Friese was also trying to erase an injury-plagued season.
“I had a good (2019) season going,” Friese said. “I don’t think I got to show everything I had. It was frustrating getting hurt just a few races in and five months off the motorcycle is not fun, so I was hungry tonight.”
The World Champion Tim Gajser scored a 7-4-4 and rounded out the top five.
Dean Wilson crashed hard in the last lap of practice. He was transported to the hospital with a leg injury.
Evan Ferry won the Supermini division on the strength of winning both Mains. Gavin Towers and Myles Gilmore rounded out the top three.
In 250 Futures, Jett Lawrence won both Mains and the overall. Jalek Swoll and Brock Papi rounded out the top three.