Ocon: “Happier and a bit disappointed” with P11 in F1 Chinese GP after his “best driving race of the whole season”

Photo Credits: BWT Alpine Formula One Team
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Esteban Ocon started last weekend’ s F1 Chinese Grand Prix from P13 and would cross the finish line P11 and just 2.3 seconds from his first points of the season. A stark difference to how Alpine were performing at the start of the season with many pundits predicting the French manufacturer to be propping up the Constructors’ Championship at the end of the season. A

A clear step forward for Ocon and co but also a pragmatic reaction after a race which had so much incident with Ocon telling media “we need to be careful what we read into” the result.

After an absence of 5 years, the F1 Chinese Grand Prix returned in style with raucous support for every team on the grid from those in the grandstands. The race was a hectic one packed with incidents which brought out Safety Cars as well as a Virtual Safety Car. Due to this, the pecking order was mixed up on numerous occasions.

Ocon managed the race and his tyres well and his A524 was clearly competitive in the midfield with many now expecting Alpine to be in the battle for P6 of this season’s F1 Constructors’ Championship. However, Ocon was quick to remind the media of the team’s current situation when such a prospect was put to him post-race.

“Well, at the moment we haven’t scored one point this season,” Ocon replied. “So, it’s early to say but it’s our best finish of the year and with both cars – it’s our best finish of the year. So, we need to be careful what we read into.”

Ocon called the Shanghai Grand Prix his ‘best driving race of the whole season’ and had been asked earlier if he found the race encouraging compared to a few races ago. 

“Happier and a bit disappointed at the same time not to be in the points,” Ocon admitted. “We ended up 2.3 seconds away from the points which is difficult to swallow given the job that we’ve done this weekend. I think it was fully maximized.

“I feel like this race has been my best driving race of the whole season I was very happy with how I’ve managed everything and there was clearly nothing left on the table. So to not have that reward is a little bit sad but it’s going in the right direction a small step at the time.

“I think both cars made a good step forward this weekend – well inside the top 15 – of course a lot has happened this race so difficult to give conclusions exactly on where we would have ended up if everyone was there but you know we will keep pushing and hopefully we have one more shot of being close to the points in Miami.” Said Ocon.

Ocon was the only Alpine driver to receive a new floor upgrade which arrived in Shanghai a race earlier than expected – as well this, there was as a reduction in weight of his car of almost 2 kilograms. Ocon reflected on the performance of the upgrade and even hinted that more was to come based on simulations conducted.

“It’s a very good effort and that’s what I’m saying, that side of things, weight wise it’s a happy step improvement. We are obviously expecting more on the aero side which should be the case but we need to dig in exactly to see if we were managing to extract the maximum amount of that and if it did bring the performance that we thought it did bring in the simulator because I think there was probably more in the simulator that we found,” claimed Ocon.

Bruno Famin, Alpine’s Team Principal said post-race: “It was an incident-packed race with multiple Safety Car periods, meaning we needed to stay alert and be ready to react, which we did with a well-executed double stacked pit-stop. Esteban drove a great race to be within striking distance of scoring points, but just missed out in the end.”

Alpine drivers Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly were left encouraged by the team’s performance at the Chinese Grand Prix, with Ocon only just missing out on a top-10 result while running an upgrade package on the A524.

With such a strong top five teams, the F1 commission are in discussion for awarding points to the top 12 finishers. Had this already been the case for this season, the Ocon would have scored points in Shanghai. However, on this matter the Frenchman is clear in his thoughts and what he would rather see.

“Well, it’s putting a plaster on just the big cut – let’s put it like this.” Ocon claimed. “It’s a way of helping the current situation. I think it would definitely work because we would have been scoring points today but I would prefer to be able to race for the front and to have every team closer and I think it is fair to say that yeah it is a small gain on what we are trying to do which is making all the cars closer.”

Alpine had a very strong weekend and Ocon recognised this saying: “I feel like it’s been very strong weekend on the operational side and on my side driving and I’ve been happy with that so we keep going.”

Next up is Miami, a circuit that Ocon does not have entirely happy memories of after a 51G shunt (although remembered differently in Shanghai by Ocon) in the 2022 F1 season. Contact with a concrete wall  during the final practice session resulted in a cracked chassis and saw the Frenchman miss out on qualifying.

“It’s nice, I enjoy the weekend overall. I think the track, the tarmac, I hope it doesn’t roll with stones as it used to because if you go offline it’s very, very slippery and I think since the FIA have solved that infield where I had the big crash in ‘22.

“I think it’s quite nice now and a lot less dangerous because it was a big shunt that I had with 42G. Me and Carlos [Sainz] we really hurt ourselves so yeah I think it’s a nice track to drive in and I hope that we can race well there.”

Ocon and Alpine will of course be disappointed to have left China without their first point of the season. However, with 19 races to come, the trajectory is an upward one and there are many more point scoring opportunities to come.