Williams is looking to hand its second seat to Esteban Ocon for 2019, but the Grove-based outfit will require additional financing to hire the Frenchman.
According to reports from Autosport, Williams is working to put together the necessary budget to secure the services of the Mercedes protégé who has been forced out of Force India for next season by the yet-to-be-confirmed Lance Stroll.
Williams will lose the backing of sponsor Martini at the end of the season, a state of affairs which, coupled with Stroll’s departure and the Canadian’s funding, could entice the team to renew its deal with its other pay driver Sergey Sirotkin and the Russian’s personal sponsor SMP.
However, if its budget can be propped up by additional sponsorship, then Williams would hire Ocon to race alongside British hopeful George Russell.
“We have been working hard for six months to ensure that our 2019 budget allows us to hire drivers on merit,” said Claire Williams.
“For the second seat we do not have the same room to manoeuvre. We would like to proceed as we did for the first driver but the road to get there is harder.
“We are working hard to ensure that Esteban stays in F1 next year by coming to us. We are doing everything we can to get there.”
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As he waits for clarity on his situation for 2019, Ocon had no hard feels for Williams’ new recruit.
“It was good to see that George is promoted,” Ocon said on Thursday in Austin.
“He’s also part of the Mercedes junior programme, and he’s signed for multiple years, and that was not our intention to sign for that many years.
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“There’s still a second seat at Williams, there’s still talks, so we’ll see where that goes. Congratulations to George. He’s in a different way in his career than I am.
“He was not at all stealing my spot, that was not the way it happened.
“If Williams wants me it’s fantastic news, if they don’t, they don’t,” he added.
A worst case scenario for Ocon would be a year on the sidelines as Mercedes’ reserve driver, a status that could lead to a golden opportunity down the road.
In addition to Sirotkin, Ocon may also have to contend with Robert Kubica who is rumored to have secured backing worth $10 million in his home country, thanks to Polish oil company PKN Orlen.
Williams is unlikely to confirm who will be sitting opposite Russell in its garage in 2019 before the end of the season.
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