Such is the excitement over Fernando Alonso’s return to Formula 1 after two years out that it has overshadowed even his team’s rebranding.

The Renault team with which the 39-year-old won titles way back in 2005 and 2006 is now Alpine, then, but what of its other driver?

It wasn’t so long ago that 24-year-old Frenchman Esteban Ocon was being touted as the next big thing. Rare among high-level racing drivers in not coming from a wealthy background (his father is a garage-owning mechanic in a Normandy village), he was supported through the junior ranks by Mercedes.

Winning the Formula 3 title in 2014 and then the GP3 title in 2015, he was sent to DTM and then parachuted mid-2016 into the Mercedes-powered Manor F1 team. There he put in some impressive performances in the slowest car on the grid, earning him a seat at midfield masters Force India.

Despite frequent coming-togethers with team-mate Sergio Pérez, he impressed over two seasons at the Silverstone team, and there was discontent when he missed out on a seat for 2019 (not from supporters of Max Verstappen, mind you, after that unlapping incident in Brazil...), leaving him to perform Mercedes' reserve duties.

Ocon force india

He was soon snapped up by Renault, but he remained in the shadows throughout 2020, performing inconsistently and being outshone by team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. This, combined with the meteoric rise in stock of Mercedes’ newest next big thing, George Russell, meant Ocon was somewhat forgotten as a star of the future.

But nobody can be expected to explode back into F1 after a year out, much less in a new team and with a new car, across the garage from an established superstar who already has experience of both.