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Esteban Ocon unfazed by rookie status in DTM

Photo: ITR e.V.

France’s Esteban Ocon is looking forward to competing in this year’s Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters (DTM) championship alongside Britain’s Gary Paffett with Mercedes’ ART Grand Prix this year, having taken part in his first official practice session at last year’s Hockenheim season finale, in place of an ill Daniel Juncadella.

The 19-year-old, who will also dovetail his maiden DTM season with a test driver role at Renault Sport F1 Team, recently spoke with about his forthcoming début in a touring car.

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“I’m really looking forward to it, as it is an amazing opportunity for me to part of such a high-level series and such a brand as well,” said Ocon. “It’s going to be good and an amazing experience for me to develop as a driver.”

Ocon’s association with ART Grand Prix continues into this season, as he secured last year’s GP3 drivers’ title with them. However, he still maintains constant contact with them, as part of his preparations for two days of testing at Hockenheim.

“It will be quite hard to really go and see the team a lot of times, to speak about the tests with them. They know my case, as I’m busy in both F1 and DTM this year, so we’re keeping in touch a lot by phone. By already knowing the team, [it] is a great help for me to continue my work with them.”

He is also well aware of the amount of work required before he takes part in his first full DTM race weekend in May.

“It will be just a small amount of preparation at Hockenheim, which will be really important. So I will have to take as much care as I can, to learn as much as possible over those days.”

With Fréderic Vasseur now taking the reigns at Renault Sport F1 Team this season, Ocon admitted that Sébastien Phillipe, ART Grand Prix team manager “has been doing a really good job.”

Many would have thought that this young rising star may have graduated to GP2, which is the direct feeder series for Formula One, but he explained his decisions on making the move to DTM.

“It was really about my personal development to go there, instead of GP2, because I need to improve a lot when it comes to the outside aspects of working as a driver for a brand. This is where you’re involved in the marketing, as well as needing to be there for interviews.

“It is something quite similar to F1, especially when you work for a company like Mercedes, it is pretty much the same, so I need to improve myself on that aspect more than just the racing itself.”

Even having to make a change to the DTM this year has clearly not unphased Ocon, who won both the FIA Formula 3 European Championship and GP3 Championship in successive years as a rookie.

“I made my début in both series, and won both titles there, so I am starting to get used to going into new championships. But in the DTM, it’s different.

“It’s more or less the same program as in GP3, but much longer and it’s a different car with different tyres. Let’s see how it goes in my first year in the DTM and how my performance comes along.”

Esteban is not only the other French driver to currently compete in the series, as Audi Sport Team Rosberg’s Adrien Tambay has been racing in the DTM since 2012, and will pair up with Britain’s Jamie Green after his move from Team Abt Sportsline.

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