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Ocon ‘needs a couple of years’ to be ready for Mercedes F1 seat

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Force India driver Esteban Ocon needs to spend “a couple of years” developing further down the Formula 1 grid before he is ready for a seat with Mercedes, according to team chief Toto Wolff.

Ocon, 20, is a member of Mercedes’ junior program, and made his F1 debut with Manor last year in Belgium before moving up to Force India for 2017.

Ocon has impressed through his opening eight races with Force India, scoring points in all but one race and recording a best finish of fifth place at the Spanish Grand Prix.

With Mercedes taking its time to decide upon Valtteri Bottas’ future beyond the end of this season, Ocon had seemed like a potential option to move up and join the world champion team for 2018 alongside Lewis Hamilton.

However, Wolff feels that the Frenchman needs to continue to make mistakes and find his feet in F1 before he will be ready to jump up to a top-line drive.

“He’s very impressive, but he needs a couple of years,” Wolff told NBCSN in Friday’s edition of Paddock Pass.

“He’s very young, 20 years old. We can’t afford to have a learning ground in a Mercedes.”

Wolff made reference to Ocon’s recent clashes with Force India teammate Sergio Perez, with the pair coming together in Baku two weeks ago in an incident that cost the team a possible podium finish.

“You need to have done it all, lost a couple of front wings at the starts and touched your teammate,” Wolff said.

“He has a bright future, but as it stands, experience is a very important factor for us.”

Wolff confirmed to NBCSN on Friday that Bottas had “done enough” to secure himself a seat with Mercedes for 2018, but that a final decision would not be taken until the summer.

Reviewing Danica Patrick’s highs and lows at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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So much of Danica Patrick’s fame can be traced to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s where she became a household name 13 years ago when she became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 and emerged as a transcendent athlete.

It’s where everything started. This Sunday, it’s where everything will end, too.

In her last warmup before starting the final race of her career, Patrick had a bumpy final practice Friday on Carb Day. She was eighth fastest, but her Dallara-Chevrolet was in the garage most of the session because of an electrical problem in the engine. After returning during the final 10 minutes of the session, Patrick’s No. 13 seemed to be OK.

“At the end of the day, these are things you’re actually glad for, because if this had happened Sunday, we would have been done,” she said. “I’m glad to get the issues out of the way early on. Overall, today felt good. We made some changes when I went out the second time, and I’m feeling good about starting seventh on Sunday.”
Though she has had her share of success – along with a fourth in her debut, there was a third in 2009 and six top 10s in seven starts — Patrick has learned well how to handle frustration at the 2.5-mile track, too.

Fuel mileage might have kept her from winning her debut, a pit collision ruined 2008, and an unstable setup made 2010 a wild ride.

For a review of her up-and-down history at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and her legacy in racing, watch the video essay above that ran during Friday’s NASCAR America Motorsports Special on NBCSN.