Esteban Ocon believes his battles with Alpine teammate Fernando Alonso this season that will help lift the entire team’s performance.
The pair engaged in a fierce fight in the opening stages of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, with Ocon defending robustly and regaining the position from Alonso on one occasion before eventually losing out to the Spaniard. Far from being concerned about the fight, Ocon said it was special for him to be able to scrap with the double world champion and that such competition will only help Alpine to improve.
“It’s a completely different philosophy now racing with these cars – it’s pretty much like a go-kart race. It’s good fun,” Ocon said. “Fighting with Fernando also; very close in all sessions (in Saudi Arabia), in qualifying less than a tenth separating us… it’s going to be close all year, but that pushes the team performance up.
“I think when you fight… same as in go-karts, you lose time, it’s normal, but a position in a one-stop race is important. We are allowed to race by the team, so it’s always a privilege to race with Fernando, so it makes me smile.”
Expanding on the way racing has changed, Ocon says the ability for drivers to come back at each other compared to what happened in the past is a welcome improvement this season.
“Before, basically as soon as you had a chance you had to go for it as you might only have one chance,” he said. “Now you have two or three chances in the lap to overtake.
So you need to time it right, make the gap at the right time, and you know if you don’t make the gap to the car behind they are going to have DRS and can get you back. It’s a different philosophy to racing. It’s good.”
While Alonso eventually retired in Saudi Arabia, Ocon went on to finish sixth ahead of Lando Norris, and the Frenchman says the signs are good for Alpine given the early gains the team is making.
“It’s been two very strong weekends for the team,” he said. “Unfortunately it’s a shame Fernando didn’t complete the race (in Jeddah), or else it was a double points finish for the team again. But we have been progressing, we have been faster than Bahrain, which is positive. It’s only race two as well, so there’s more to come. I’m pleased with that many points at the start of the season.”