Ocon is out of contract at Alpine at the end of this season. He was signed by the Mercedes junior program during his 2015 title-winning GP3 Series campaign and given his relationship with the team’s boss Toto Wolff, he is seen as a candidate to replace Hamilton.

Addressing the speculation for the first time, Ocon said he had always maintained “strong links” to Mercedes but stressed that he remains “totally dedicated” to current employer Alpine.

Speaking during Wednesday’s launch of the Alpine A524 at Enstone, Ocon said: “I’ve always had strong links with Mercedes. I’m still a Merc junior driver.

“This has always been, even if I’m not that junior anymore. I’m still contracted with them at some stage.

“So, it is how it is. We will see.

“At the moment, I’m totally dedicated to Alpine. That’s my focus.

“I need to do a good job on track as always. Every year is a crucial year in F1 because it doesn’t matter if you have a contract or not. If you don’t perform, you can be out. That’s how it is.

“If you do a strong job there will always be talks, rumors and good things for you. As long as we talk about you, it means that what you do on track is good.”

Esteban Ocon, Alpine

Photo by: Alpine

Ocon reckoned that Hamilton’s Ferrari switch had “surprised everyone”, based on the timing of the announcement.

“I think the Lewis news surprised everyone for sure,” he said. “Nobody was expecting something like that during the winter because it’s quite calm period normally, but it hasn’t seemed to be a calm period this winter.”

Meanwhile, a sense of calm has returned at Alpine after its sweeping management changes last summer, with Ocon hoping the stability at the team will pay dividends.

“It’s very good to have continuity,” he added. “You keep the work going, keep the little details going through. And ultimately, that’s very important because you have everything to learn if you work with a new team, with new people.

“If there is some fuzz at the other [teams], we will take it, but we don’t want to focus on the other side. We need to be perfect on our side and then things will come.”

Additional reporting by Jonathan Noble

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