Esteban Ocon has established himself as a star on the rise in Formula 1, with the Frenchman a highly rated Mercedes protégé but he could yet be out of a drive – and on the sidelines – for 2019.

…with Lance Stroll likely to replace him at Racing Point Force India, and limited options elsewhere given his Silver Arrows links.

It’s an incredible situation given Ocon’s current form at the squad, but with teammate Sergio Pérez rumoured to have signed a renewal, the writing is very much on the wall.

Across the first 15 races, Ocon has outqualified Pérez 11-4, and outraced him 8-3 when they could be compared, with the Frenchman just one point off in the standings with two more DNFs. 

… results that justify Mercedes’ investment, especially with Ocon the top gun of the German marque’s junior program.

“The bar is raising if you want to qualify for a Mercedes [drive]. You need to be quick, you need to make no mistakes, you need to work well within your team, be respected by your team and energise the team. And all these are factors we try to capture and measure.”

These factors saw Mercedes almost place Ocon with Renault – in the days before Daniel Ricciardo’s shock move; closing off a chance with McLaren, with the French marque infinitely more attractive.

All of which has created the perfect storm – leaving Ocon with few options, and his Silver Arrows connections a real issue for other teams to consider him a viable option.

“If he was to be contractually free he’d be an obvious candidate for Toro Rosso,” said Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner.

The logical alternative is Williams, given the team’s power unit partnership with Mercedes, but it would be a big step back for the Frenchman with the team on its knees competitively…

The next few months are crucial for Ocon to secure a drive that can further his career.

It’s now a gauntlet to run for Ocon and his Mercedes management.