Ocon on fighting illness at the F1 Abu Dhabi GP: “Nobody is designed for 23 or 24 races”

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With the curtain falling on the Formula 1 season, the Yas Marina Circuit hosted the final qualifying session of 2023 earlier today.

Photo Credit: BWT Alpine F1 Team

The Alpine F1 team experienced their share of drama throughout the session, with Esteban Ocon contending with illness and Pierre Gasly securing 10th position for the race tomorrow, despite impeding incidents on track.

Gasly’s drive to P10

In Q1 and Q2, Gasly had lap times deleted for track limits, something multiple drivers struggled with, but he squeezed into Q3, securing the final spot in the top 10 for tomorrow’s race.

As things stand, Gasly will line up in P10 for tomorrow’s race, having set a best lap time of 1:24.548s. He claimed that the qualifying session was “nice” and that he is “really happy to get it to Q3, second time in a row I think after Vegas.

“I think Saturday has been very strong and we knew on this track it would be extremely tight with everyone, so it wasn’t guaranteed, we struggled in Q1.

“In Q2 I managed to put a very strong lap and then struggled again in Q3 with the tyres… a bit up and down and difficult to read but all in all I’m very happy to finish with this.”

McLaren’s rookie Oscar Piastri faced a grid penalty for allegedly impeding Gasly, but the Aussie was later cleared after an investigation. Addressing the incident, Gasly displayed his integrity, noting that Piastri was simply “caught a bit sleeping” but claimed that it was “no big deal and he did a good quali so hopefully he won’t really get penalised from that.”

When asked about Verstappen’s pit lane overtaking, and Gasly’s views on the situation, he noted “Yesterday I think we were close to see a front wing and the rear tyres come together so yeah… pit exit, and pit entries are usually not places that should be used to fight for position or even race.”

Speaking about tomorrow’s race, Gasly hopes to fight for a couple of points and get involved in a few “nice battles” on the track.

Ocon’s illness and fight for P12

Esteban Ocon faced more than the challenges posed by the Yas Marina Circuit, sharing his struggle with illness during a post-qualifying interview.

He admitted, “It’s obviously not optimal to be in bed for two days before an F1 race.”

Shedding light on the demanding F1 schedule, especially the back-to-back races in Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi, Ocon noted that he “still did a good job considering all of that, considering not running in FP1 as well.”

Speaking about the car and tomorrow’s race, the Alpine driver claimed that “there’s more pace than what we’ve shown today in the car. If we put everything together, hopefully there will be points on the table tomorrow.“

He hinted at the physical toll of the current racing schedule, saying, “We didn’t see the sun for four days. There’s a lot of things that are pushing on the human body but usually it’s when you come home from here where it happens.

“It’s one more race than last year, two more races. Nobody is designed for that and not 24 or 23 races. So yeah, let’s see if we can escape from that next year.”

Despite missing FP1 and dealing with understeer issues during the last run, Ocon secured 12th place on the grid. He would end up 0.313s slower than his stablemate in Q2.

In testament to his determination and despite his illness, Ocon is looking forward to tomorrow’s race: “I’ll be all right. Even if I’m sick, I will be fine.

“I think here, obviously, it is difficult as a circuit physically. But nowhere near some of the most difficult ones. And even being, you know, with a good two degrees fever, yesterday, I’ve been able to do some good laps. So, I should be okay.”