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F1 young driver programmes a double-edged sword - Rosberg

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F1 young driver programmes a double-edged sword - Rosberg
By:
Sep 25, 2018, 11:08 AM

Esteban Ocon's "terrible" situation in having to fight for his Formula 1 career shows there are downsides to the help junior driver schemes have given rising stars, says former champion Nico Rosberg.

Ocon is currently facing a year on the F1 sidelines after a planned move to Renault fell through at the last second, and other teams said they were not interested in him because of his close links to Mercedes.

The Frenchman's plight has been viewed as a bad thing for F1, with more and more drivers having their careers decided by the major car makers.

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But while Rosberg believes that junior driver schemes have delivered great positives in allowing young talent to break through to F1, he is mindful about potential pitfalls as Ocon has found out.

"So many top drivers have had the necessary support because the F1 teams have got involved like they never used to – so that I think is a good thing," Rosberg told Motorsport.com.

"The F1 teams themselves are taking the initiative, and supporting very young drivers, so I don't think it is such a disastrous situation.

"Maybe it is a little bit worse than it used to be, but we generally need to keep an eye on it – because a situation like Ocon shouldn't happen. That is terrible.

"He is such a sensation. The guy has been driving so well, and he doesn't have a drive – that is really terrible, so that must be avoided."

With the costs of competing in junior categories so expensive now, signing up to an F1 team's junior programme is viewed as an almost necessary step to making it in to grand prix racing.

Sergio Perez, who was once part of the Ferrari young driver academy, says that no driver would turn his back on the chance to affiliate themselves with a leading car manufacturer.

"Who wouldn't want to be a Mercedes driver?" he said "When I came here to F1, I'd been a Ferrari driver with the academy, then when I went to McLaren I had to leave the academy.

"But, if you ask me, obviously you would like to be linked to a top team because that's the only way in the next years that you can become a world champion.

"So I'd love to be part of Ferrari or Mercedes programme. But, at the same time, that doesn't guarantee you a place in Formula 1, so it's hard to know."

Max Verstappen has admitted that he did all he could to avoid signing up to a young driver scheme at an early stages, because he didn't want his career path dictated by someone else.

"I could have joined a junior team in 2010 but I didn't because you want to keep it in your hands as long as possible, and you can make the best deals," he said. "That is how we did it.

"That is also what brought me here, but sometimes you don't have those people behind you, so you have to sign those kinds of contracts where you have nothing to say, because basically the team decides for you where you have to go."

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Series Formula 1
Author Jonathan Noble