Esteban Ocon, who got his first outing in the 2019 Renault on the opening day of the Abu Dhabi tire test, said his return to Formula 1 is “a fantastic feeling!”
Renault opted to replace Nico Hulkenberg with Ocon for 2020, with the Frenchman being released from his Mercedes reserve driver role to start work with his new team on Monday. The second day on the job involved him testing at Yas Marina Circuit, and Ocon admits it was a special feeling to get back behind the wheel after a year away from racing in F1.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to be back,” Ocon said. “I was so excited for today — I’ve been waiting for this day for months and finally it happened.
“It was a good first impression,” he addd. “The team gave me a very warm welcome which is always very satisfying — seeing some old faces and some new faces as well which is great.
“Now we have start work on all the little details. Towards the end of the afternoon, I started to get closer and closer to the limit, so it feels nice.”
While the teams are trying to get to grips with the 2020 Pirelli tire compounds, Ocon (who was eighth fastest overall after 77 laps) admits his own focus was simply on settling in at Renault.
“My main focus was to get back up to speed. It has been some time since I last drove, of course. Just trying to work on the big details before working on the small ones, and trying to get a sensible position in the car, too. Once we’d more or less done that, (my job) was also to get a feel for the car and the new tires.”
Ocon will drive again on Wednesday and says he expects to be able to provide better feedback after the work done on the first day of the test.
“We got back up to speed and we also worked on the tires. From what I remember of 2018, it’s not far off, but I won’t go much into details. We’ve got good data to analyze. I think there will be a lot more time for comparison tomorrow. Today we focused more on short runs than long runs; tomorrow is going to be a bit more on long runs, I think.
“(The car) felt good. Obviously there is always a lot that you can improve. The engine is also something new for me since a couple of years ago, and there was good power. Of course, the balance — you always need to work on it, it’s never perfect. I think we have a solid base that we can continue tomorrow.”