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Mercedes’ ‘crossroads’ with Esteban Ocon and George Russell

1:28 pm, 21st September 2018

The world champions’ team boss has expressed frustration in recent weeks with the driver market for 2019 and, in an interview with Sky F1 in Singapore, accused some rivals of “hidden agendas and lies” during negotiations in the summer to place Ocon for 2019.

Neither Ocon nor British youngster Russell, the current F2 title leader, yet have seats for next season.

“We are at a crossroads at the moment,” said Wolff. “We are going to see how it pans out with George and Esteban and then decide how we continue.”

Who will get final F1 2019 seats?

Ocon has consistently impressed since joining the sport two years ago, but increasingly appears set to be squeezed off the grid for 2019.

However, while the 22-year-old could miss out for next season, Wolff is optimistic such a scenario would only prove temporary.

“It doesn’t feel right for someone like Esteban to sit out a year, but we have seen it in the past,” admitted Wolff.

“I believe that the market is going to be very different again in the early summer next year, not only with us but also with some of the other teams.

“Some doors will open, others will remain closed, and it’s just about finding the next right opportunity for Esteban.”

Should Russell become F2 champion, then the feeder series’ rules would prohibit the 20-year-old from defending the title next season. But Wolff does not believe Mercedes will ultimately have to decide between the Briton and Ocon.

“The two of them are at a very different stage in their careers,” he said. “George is still in the fight for the F2 championship, and it’s not done, and he clearly has the talent to go into Formula 1 but he’s not in as tricky a position as Esteban.

“I don’t think that the two of them will come into each other’s way.”

Mercedes have had three junior drivers on their books this year but the third, current reserve Pascal Wehrlein, is leaving their programme at the end of 2018 in order to pursue other potential opportunities.

“We felt together with Pascal that this was the best outcome for him,” said Wolff.

“My opinion of him is still very high and it looked like that we could possibly be blocking his future career and this is not what we wanted. And he also felt that he needed to give it a go on his own.

“I would be overwhelmed and happy if he on his own would find his way back into Formula 1 or a professional racing career.”

Wehrlein has been linked with a seat at Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso for 2019.

Sky Sports F1 is the only place to watch every Formula 1 Grand Prix, qualifying and practice session live in 2018. Get Sky Sports F1.