ocon alpine f1 jeddah

Ocon: We’re behind, no one can sugarcoat that

ocon alpine f1 jeddah

Esteban Ocon knew the Alpine A524 would be slow from the time he drove it on the simulator, now two races into the season his fears have been realised, the French team is possibly the worst in Formula 1 right now and you can’t “sugarcoat” it.

Alpine’s saison misérable will be long and hard if the 2024 F1 season opener in Bahrain and Round 2 a week later in Saudi are anything to go by.

The opening race of the season will be remembered for the all-French back row with Ocon and Gasly lining up P19 and P20 respectively. They both ‘improved’ one place in the race to P18 and P19 after a hard and unrewarding slog in the desert night for both drivers.

In terms of outright pace relative to last year, Ocon’s efforts in Bahrain GP Qualifying stats show:

  • In 2023, Ocon’s best Qualy lap was  1:30.984s good enough for Q3 and eventually p9 on the grid;
  • In 2024, Ocon’s best Qualy lap was  1:30.793s which put him out in Q1 and p19 for the start.

A week later in Jeddah, it was worse when the overweight/underpowered A524 was really exposed as the numbers from Saudi GP Qualy suggest:

  • In 2023, Ocon made it into Q3 ending P7 with a best lap time of 1:29.078s;
  • In 2024, Ocon’s best lap of 1:29.475s meant another Q1 exit and p17 on the grid.

After the disappointment in Jeddah, Ocon revealed to French reporters: “When we drove the 2024 car virtually in the simulator, we realized that we had a lot of hard work ahead of us. Now it has to get better in all respects.”

How badly have Alpine fallen?

Ocon: We’re behind, no one can sugarcoat that Alpine

“We will only get there step by step. We have a plan with development parts that we will bring to the car over the course of the season. Hopefully, they will take us forward. But it’s clear to everyone here, it won’t happen overnight,” warned Ocon.

An indicator is the fact that of all F1 teams, only the A524 was slower than its predecessors in Saudi compared to last year. In a nutshell, the French equipe dropped four or five rungs on the pecking order, from around the top of the midpack last year to the bottom of the pile right now.

With heads still rolling at Alpine, the future of the team is inevitably questioned as the Renault rebranding exercise has run out of steam and appears headless at the moment. A fine legacy of French motorsport eroding from once proud champions to back-of-the-grid F1 fodder.

Starting his fifth season as a Renault/Alpine driver, the harsh reality for 27-year-old Ocon is: “It went a little better than in Bahrain but we’re behind. No one can sugarcoat that.”

His Alpine teammate Gasly is also resigned to the pain: “I feel very clearly what I’m missing in the car and what I want from the team. We know the improvements we’ve got to make. But for the meantime… we’ve got to be patient until some upgrades come to the car.

In the meantime, we’ve got to do the best we can with what we have. It’s disappointing for everyone in the team, and we’ll switch focus straightaway on Melbourne,” added Gasly, who is in his second year with the French team. (Reporting by Agnes Carlier in Jeddah)