The 24-year-old French driver has finished ahead of the returning two-time world champion in all four races
By Yuri Coghe
It’s easy to be mesmerized by youngsters as talented as Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris, or even by George Russell’s Saturday performances. But don’t forget Esteban Ocon.
If Fernando Alonso was the talk of the town in the pre-season, now that title falls upon his Alpine teammate.
Ocon has finished ahead of the returning two-time world champion in all four races, finishing in the points in the last three. The Frenchman, now on his second season with the team formerly known as Renault, has also out-qualified Alonso in all but the season opener in Bahrain.
The solid performances led the Évreux-native to collect ten points in the standings, twice the Spaniard’s numbers. And it didn’t go unnoticed even by Alonso himself.
“I think he’s good, we are seeing that,” said the 39-year-old driver after the qualifying in Barcelona. Ocon was 0s6 faster than him in the Q3 and managed to start the race fifth, five positions ahead of his teammate.
“He’s in very good form right now, fully integrated in the team. (He had) a podium last year in Bahrain in the last part of the championship and now giving perfect weekends. This is very good and impressive what he’s achieving now,” said Alonso, who is racing with titanium plates in his jaw following a February cycling accident.
“I’m giving my 100% and obviously that’s not enough to be at that level at the moment so I need to keep improving.”
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Alonso is not worried, however. According to him, it’s all a question of adapting to the new car.
“In a way, we talk about this and we anticipated this a little bit when Carlos (Sainz Jr.) joined Renault. He was not as quick as (Nico) Hulkenberg I remember in the first couple of races. Daniel (Ricciardo) was arguable slower than Nico in 2019 and he was very good in 2020 in his second year.
“Esteban was struggling last year with Daniel and he’s good in this second year, so it seems that it’s a team that is a little bit different to the others and you need an adaptation. So I’m trying to do this as quickly as I can. I’m not worried, it’s going to come very soon, if not already because Imola we crossed the line together and Portimao we crossed the line together… but we will try to help the team as much as we can.”
After an improvement in Alpine’s performances allowed Ocon to finish ninth, seventh and ninth again in the last three races, the French driver is looking forward to keeping the momentum going in the next round in Monaco.
“Looking at the beginning of the year I think we are a lot happier with where we are now,” Ocon said after the Spanish Grand Prix. “We know the areas that we need to focus on, which is a bit more the race clearly, but coming to Monaco we go there with a smile at the moment because we’ve been working well.”
Having a faster pace in qualifying than in the race is indeed something his team need to look at, but it might come in handy in Monaco. The street circuit is one of the hardest to overtake in the F1 calendar, so getting a good starting position is key.
“Until we put the car there and we do the qualifying we will not know exactly, but I think looking at our performance in qualifying we should be in good shape in Monaco. I hope that we are going to be able to perform as good, so I think we can give a fight to the Ferraris and the other cars around in qualifying. I’m pretty confident.”
“The place we have to focus – the race – in Monaco it’s hard to overtake so it’s less of a critical point, but yes I think we are a bit slower than Ferrari and a bit slower than McLaren at the moment on pure pace in the race.”
The Monaco Grand Prix weekend is set for the May 23 weekend.
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