SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Frenchman Esteban Ocon will drive for the Renault Formula One team next season, the French manufacturer announced on Thursday.
The 22-year-old Mercedes protege, filling the reserve driver role for the world champions this year, will replace Nico Hulkenberg alongside Australian Daniel Ricciardo as part of a two-year deal keeping him at the team until 2021.
“I am very attached to this team and everyone who works there,” said Ocon, who was the team’s reserve driver in 2016 and part of its junior driver programme when it ran as Lotus under previous ownership.
“They are the ones who opened the doors of top level motorsport for me.”
Ocon, who raced for Force India and then Racing Point after the team was renamed under new ownership in 2017, was set to join Renault last season.
But the highly-rated youngster found himself on the sidelines after the French manufacturer agreed a deal with Ricciardo instead.
He was in the frame for a seat alongside five-times world champion Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes.
But the Brackley-based team chose to stick with Valtteri Bottas in a deal announced earlier on Thursday.
Ocon will fulfil his duties as Mercedes reserve until the end of this season, a spokesman for the team said.
“Over his Formula One career Esteban has experienced the highs and lows of the sport, and fully understood the need to seize every possible chance,” said Renault team principal Cyril Abiteboul.
“He has shown his ability to score points, has great professionalism... plus his recent experience as reserve driver to the current world champions will be a valuable asset to the development of our entire team.”
Renault have endured a difficult season and are currently sixth out of ten teams in the standings.
There was no immediate announcement on where Hulkenberg could be headed next year, but the German has been tipped to replace Romain Grosjean at Haas. (Reporting by Abhishek Takle, editing by Christian Radnedge)