Ocon: “Maximising the potential” of the A524 leaves a “bittersweet taste” for Alpine F1 due to its current lack of performance

Photo Credit: BWT Alpine F1 Team
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For the second consecutive weekend, Esteban Ocon managed to get himself out of Q1 as he made the top 15 for today’s Japanese Grand Prix.

The Frenchman was P14 after the first runs in the opening segment of qualifying. He went one better at the end of the session as the 2021 Hungarian GP winner produced a strong lap to be 13th.

It proved to be the maximum the car had as Ocon went slower by 0.005s in Q2, ending up in P15 as Hülkenberg and Albon took a step forward.

Speaking post-qualifying, Ocon declared his progression to Q2 as a small satisfaction considering the position Alpine currently find themselves in.

“I think a small satisfaction, let’s call it like that. I think looking at before the session, it looked to be impossible for us to go to Q2, so that’s why I say small satisfaction because it was a bit unexpected.

“And it looked OK. After Q1, I thought I could continue progressing and get quicker. But unfortunately, that’s all there was.

“There was not enough for us to be improving, and we’re still quite far from Q3.

“We need to keep on digging. And hopefully things will happen tomorrow so we can get into the points.”

Although he placed 14th in final practice, Ocon was extremely unhappy with car balance. By qualifying, things were much better.

The 27-year-old said he is proud of how Alpine has turned things around on his side of the garage on Saturday in both Australia and Japan.

“FP3, I was really unhappy with the car. We changed tons of things.

“And obviously going into quali, it works. It worked in the right direction. I think we maximised the potential. So that’s good.

“And I’m proud with the work that we are doing since a couple of weekends now.”

Ocon was properly fired up and delighted with making it through Q1 as he happily expressed on team radio when he was told he made it through.

The Frenchman believes the team is working better and getting the maximum out of the package at present, unlike in the previous 2 years with the current ground effect cars.

Unfortunately for him and Alpine, maximising the car right now means getting out of Q1, leaving him with a bitter taste in his mouth.

“Yeah, I think there is some some personal satisfaction and a confidence boost as a team in what we are doing at the moment.

“I feel that it’s a bit disappointing not to see the good job that we are doing because we don’t have a fast car, obviously.

“But it’s exactly what I said to the guys when I come back — I said, ‘what if we had a Q3 car?’ Because I feel like we are maximising the potential and we were not doing that last year or with this new generation of cars much. So it feels good on that regard.

“But, yeah, there’s a bit of a bittersweet taste.”

On the other side of the garage, Pierre Gasly was left frustrated as he got knocked out in Q1 for a fourth consecutive weekend in 2024.

The 26-year-old had a strong first sector, his best was 0.006s faster than Ocon’s who also had extra opportunities to go quicker in Q2.

But as Gasly goes on to explain, it all went downhill from there.

With his tyres overheating, he had snaps, sliding and wheelspin through the rest of the lap. He was the slowest driver through the middle sector on Saturday and he could only manage P17 in the end.

“It was a messy lap from Turn 7 onwards. I mean, sector 1 was strong, the car felt good. But then the degradation I had through the lap was massive. It just feels like we overheated the tyres way too early in the lap.

“Out of Turn 6, going on power, it starts sliding a bit. So I can feel the rear started to go a little bit, 7 the same, and Turn 9 onwards. First big snap in Turn 9 going on power, wheelspin in 11, snap in 15, and it was like downhill from Turn 6.

“Yeah, we’ll analyse, I think — warm-up, preparation, all these elements, how we could have maximised, because it wasn’t a maximised lap, unfortunately.”

When asked if his driving style is not suited to the A524 at present, the 2020 Italian Grand Prix winner said he would not go into details about the situation.

Gasly also admitted Ocon and his side of the garage are doing a better job at understanding the tyres at present.

“I think there are answers to it [why Ocon is faster], and I won’t go into too much detail.

“But yeah, I think it’s fair to say in terms of tyre preparation, I don’t think we’ve been on top of it. And the fact of being on the back foot, I think it has bigger consequences than for other guys.

“On a day like today, if you go to Q2, you can adjust yourself. Unfortunately, on days like this with in the situation we are in, if you don’t get it right at the right time, then you pay the price and you can’t recover from it.

“I think all in all, it’s areas where we’ve got to do better. For sure on their side, they seem to get it right a bit more from the tyres especially.”

Photo Credit: BWT Alpine F1 Team