Esteban Ocon admits he cried after crossing the finish line to take the first podium of his Formula 1 career in the dramatic Sakhir Grand Prix.
Mercedes looked set for a one-two before making pit stop errors with both cars during a late safety car period, dropping them out of contention. Ocon had slipped to fourth on the road after being overtaken by Sergio Perez, but the Mercedes issues promoted him to second and he held off Lance Stroll to secure his first top-three finish in 66 starts.
“(My family) must be unbelievably happy, I hope,” Ocon said. “I didn’t have the chance, obviously, to call them yet but as soon as we are done with everything, I will be spending a good time with them. What a journey. What a difficult journey to arrive here — a lot of sacrifices from my early days.
“Not easy to get into F1 and I stopped, obviously, last year. Not easy to get back in as well. New team, strong teammate against me and we were seeing the progress this year. It was coming but it never really paid off until today. Today we made it happen.
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“I’m very pleased. I think this is what was waiting around but we didn’t get the luck we wanted each time. Such a cool race — and congratulations to Checo and also to Lance, my mate, we had a good fight together through Turn 4. It was good fun, I really enjoyed that race.
“All the emotions that came when I crossed that line. Unbelievable. I never cried for anything but I tell you, today, the tears, they came, and they came for a good reason. So I’m really happy.”
Ocon had been left a little frustrated after his qualifying performance left him 11th on the grid, but that afforded him a free choice of tires to start the race and he made a one-stop strategy work. The Frenchman admitted his hopes had been high given the pre-race simulations, but he didn’t dream he’d be on the podium.
“We had good expectations about today. Obviously we knew what we are going to do with the strategy, coming from outside the top 10, free choice of tires and that was very interesting for a race like this.
“The graphs were showing that we were going to be coming in the top five, that it was going to be a very strong comeback and the guys on more stops were going to be struggling a bit. But yeah, we never thought, obviously, that we were going to come this close to the win even. It’s been an awesome race.”