Alpine should not be expected to make a big step forward in future races off the back of Esteban Ocon’s win in Hungary, according to sporting director Alan Permane.
Ocon delivered an impressive drive to hold off Sebastian Vettel and win a chaotic race at the Hungaroring that had been blown wide open by first-corner incidents and a strategic error from Mercedes. On a track that is tough to overtake, Ocon withstood almost race-long pressure from the Aston Martin and Permane admits the win doesn’t signify an improvement in terms of the team’s overall competitiveness.
“I don’t think so, unfortunately,” Permane said. “I think if you look at where we were in qualifying — this track we felt would suit us. I think we are where we are. We will continue learning the car and we will continue improving it, but only by small amounts like others will do theirs.
“The next race (at Spa) is a tough one — it’s a long quick track and we are a bit nervous about that in the race. We don’t feel we have the same raw performance on those very long tracks, the high-energy demand tracks. So we’re not thinking that far ahead.”
Permane attributes a big part of the shock victory to Fernando Alonso’s ability to hold up Lewis Hamilton, who was recovering through the field and eventually finished just 2.7 seconds adrift of Ocon.
“Undoubtedly crucial. It was 11 laps I believe — if he’d got past him on the first lap like he got past Carlos (Sainz) on the first time past, I’m sure Lewis would have been there.
“I think what we would have done in that scenario is drop back a little bit, give Seb the DRS and use that to protect a little but I don’t know if we would have held him off. Maybe, maybe… Don’t forget he (Hamilton) had very fresh tires — he was one of the quickest people in that last stint. Who knows?
“They are always special (victories). It is a long time since we won a race — I think someone said to me Melbourne 2013. I think I was on the podium then so that was very nice as well. But this is very special. Of course the first year of Alpine and it just coming together for them — plenty of new people here, new motivation and so it always helps.”