2014 FIA European Formula 3 Champion Esteban Ocon had his first opportunity to show the Formula 1 paddock just what he is made of after participating in first practice for the Lotus F1 Team in Abu Dhabi, and the Frenchman was very nearly on the pace of his more experienced team-mate straightaway.
Ocon, who won the European F3 Championship ahead of 2015 Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen, was sixteenth quickest, and despite running off the track once when he braked a little late, ran twenty-nine relatively trouble-free laps of the Yas Marina Circuit.
Replacing Romain Grosjean in the team, Ocon finished just 0.355s down on Pastor Maldonado, and the Frenchman was happy with his performance, despite finding the set-up of the car more challenging than he has been used to in the past.
“It felt great to be out on track today,” said Ocon. “I didn’t push too hard too soon, but everything felt good. Certainly the car is pretty different to drive from the previous generation F1 cars I’ve driven before, it’s definitely more complicated in terms of all the settings and the driving style required is a change too.
“I’m quite happy with the pace show, but I was driving with margin so there’s more speed to come in next week’s test.”