esteban ocon alpine

Ocon on that backmarker feeling which he “honestly hates”

esteban ocon alpine

Esteban Ocon shared insight into the pain of being a Formula 1 driver when knowing you will be a backmarker, with hardly a chance to compete for points, which appears to be the plight of his Alpine F1 Team for the rest of the season.

The French team have got off to the worst possible start to their 2024 campaign in the top flight. The Renault-owned team, fielding an overweight car coupled with a lame Power Unit, a recipe for back-row of the grid existence.

This was the case when Ocon and Pierre Gasly lined up P19 and P20 for the 2024 F1 World Championship season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. A sign of the cliff the they have to climb with their – worst of the ten F1 cars – cumbersome Alpine A524.

Ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, speaking during the FIA-hosted F1 drivers’ press conference on Thursday, Ocon was asked how he keeps motivated under the circumstances.

He replied:  “It’s the worst feeling you can have. And I honestly hate that, when you do a good weekend and you are not able to enter the scoring points, when you know there’s no reward for you in the end.

“But, it’s up to us to try and figure out and get more performance and get closer to these cars. But yeah, it is tough to go into a weekend and push as hard as you can also mentally. To be doing the maximum knowing that there could be no reward in the end.

“But it’s part of the job. You need to do the best you can with what you have in hand and that’s why I’m here,” declared the 27-year-old Frenchman.

Clueless leadership of Alpine turns Ocon and Gasly into F1 backmarkers

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For Alpine, the writing has been on the wall for some time now. The team is in complete disarray since they announced awkwardly at Spa-Francorchamps, after last year’s summer break, that Otmar Szafnauer was surplus to plans. From then on the place has been a revolving door of top guns being fired or jumping ship.

Although Bruno Famin is the Alpine F1 team principal, Renault CEO Luca de Meo calls the shots and it is clear that his lack of F1 acumen coupled with the arrogance of his kind, who think this sport is a simple undertaking, is biting him severely in the behind.

Much like the late Sergio Marchionne – a baron of the motor industry but an F1 disaster – who sent Ferrari on a road to nowhere (a decade ago) by putting nerdy engine guru Mattia Binotto in charge of running the sport’s biggest team, instead of keeping him in the horsepower seeking department where he has few rivals.

Put simply, being an auto industry head honcho does not maketh a knowledgeable racing man, let alone one who can run a successful F1 team.

De Meo fits in the category of an ‘auto bigwig’ being clueless about F1. Hence his team is in the state it is in. With the hole they are digging getting so deep the only light may be to flog the team to someone who will turn it into something more than a back-of-the-grid operation.

And while firing left right and center may be a sign of knowing what one is doing, it is clearly not as hiring is a far longer process than firing. Top staff is always going to be a year a two away from joining, as gardening leave is part and parcel of deals done in F1 for the very clever people.

Why is the Alpine A524 so bad?

Alpine reveals 'bold' and 'brand-new' A524 ocon Why is the Alpine A524 so bad?

With a large chunk of the staff that conceptualised the current Alpine and its development path are probably gone or leaving the team. The car is in flux one imagines. Or put it this way, this year’s A624 is slower than the A523 at this time last year. Incomprehensible, considering the leaps made by the other nine F1 teams.

Ocon reckons: “There’s a lot of small things that are not working the way we would like, but the field is so tight at the moment that details in the end, if you have many that are not right, make a huge difference.

“I remember being that far off the grid with Manor, but nowadays it’s a lot closer to the field. The field is a lot more compact from P1 to where we are and it’s a very different way of sorting things out. So, yeah, we will see where and how we progress through the year, but the aim is to progress.”

As for the disheartening state of play his team is facing for the year ahead, Ocon said: “We are obviously where we are. It’s not a situation that we are enjoying as a team. I think none of us, in Viry or Enstone, is enjoying struggling that much in the weekends.

“It’s a long season and obviously, we are working towards, trying to optimise the car, understand where our issues are and to turn things around. Hopefully, it’s more simple to say than to make it. So until we make it, it’s only words. But this is the aim that we have as a team.

“Ware not going to release the pressure on that until we get there. And that’s the aim of everyone. The morale is good inside the team. Everyone’s motivated and that’s the most important at the moment,” added Ocon, who will make his 136th Grand Prix start in Melbourne on Sunday.

Big Question: What’s happening with the Alpine F1 Team?