London, September 6: Toto Wolff says Mercedes would consider releasing Esteban Ocon from their young driver programme if it helped him secure a drive for 2019. Ocon's position at Racing Point Force India appears perilous, with Lance Stroll - whose father was behind the team's takeover - widely expected to arrive from Williams.
Indeed, in a conversation caught on camera at the Belgian Grand Prix, Ocon told Sebastian Vettel he had lost his seat "to the one who bought it", while Sergio Perez, who brings in a significant amount of money to the team, is expected to keep his drive.
Ocon, 21, is one of the most promising drivers on the grid and has been supported by Mercedes throughout his development.
But McLaren cited the Frenchman's association with the defending constructors' champions as a "tick in the wrong box" when assembling their driver line-up for next year, eventually opting for Lando Norris to join Carlos Sainz Jr.
Renault appeared an option before they landed the coup of Daniel Ricciardo, leaving Mercedes-powered Williams as potentially the only realistic option for Ocon next season. Ferrari are thought to be keen on giving Charles Leclerc their second seat and, with Haas and Sauber powered by the Italian giant and Toro Rosso using Honda engines, Ocon's Mercedes affiliation could continue to count against him.
"Fundamentally why we do this is we take great enjoyment in helping young talented drivers who lack finances," Wolff is quoted as saying by Sky Sports.
"When we took Esteban from Gravity [management team], we felt that he needed support. But if our support only works until Formula One but is then detrimental to these guys to get the right seats, you need to consider these things [releasing Ocon].
"And then think what does it mean to be a Mercedes driver? At the moment you're driving for another team, Esteban is not going to take any s*** from me if he was driving for a McLaren or a Williams. The whole system needs to be scrutinised in my opinion."