Ocon laments horrible F1 Japanese GP race pace for Alpine: “The first step backwards since Bahrain”

Photo Credit: BWT Alpine F1 Team
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There’s something every F1 fan can agree on: Alpine has been having a terrible season so far. From car issues in Jeddah that saw Pierre Gasly DNF on the first lap to being backmarkers the past four races, the Enstone-based team has been struggling. And according to Esteban Ocon, the Japanese Grand Prix was a step in the wrong direction.

The 27-year-old made it through to Q2 and started in P15. It got even better on race day initially as he moved up to P11 by the second restart.

However, that was as good as it got. He was overtaken by Bottas, Stroll, Magnussen, Sargeant and Hülkenberg as Ocon fell back to P16.

Although he briefly got himself back to that intense fight for the last point as he undercut those cars by 4 laps, he fell back through the pack once again and finished a very lonely P15. Only an off for Logan Sargeant meant the Alpines did not finish in the final 2 spots for those who saw tbe chequered flag.

Pleased with what they achieved on Saturday considering their car performance, Ocon conceded the race was a step back for the team following a promising showing in Australia.

“I think we were not quick enough today. I think we did this weekend a good step forward in qualifying. But in the race, that’s probably the first step backwards since Bahrain. There’s some similarities between here and Bahrain, so we want to look at that.”

While there were moments where they had some hope, reality ultimately kicked in. Ocon finished 22s behind Valtteri Bottas as Alpine’s race pace was a long way off their midfield rivals.

“Strategy-wise we try and be bold, we try to undercut a lot of cars, which we did. We passed like four cars at one point. But yeah, I could not do anything to hold them.”

This confirms what many were thinking: Alpine just doesn’t have the long run pace compared to the other cars. So even if they are able to undercut cars and “gain positions”, they can’t hold the spots gained, putting them at the back of the grid.

“We must keep improving in all areas and bringing upgrades to the car,” Alpine boss Bruno Famin said afterwards.

Even though Alpine has had a dreadful start to the campaign, we’ve seen teams like McLaren struggle in the beginning but turn it around big time.

Will Alpine have a lightbulb moment and make a big step with upgrades that can change everything, or will they continue to be the backmarkers for the rest of 2024? Only time will tell.