Esteban Ocon says that should the Racing Point Force India F1 Team match their performance at last year’s Japanese Grand Prix, the team should regard it as a “great effort”.
Ocon ran as high as third place at the Suzuka International Racing Course before finishing an impressive sixth, with team-mate Sergio Pérez following him in seventh. The result helped Force India all but secure a second consecutive top four finish in the Constructors’ Championship.
12 months and a team rebrand on, Force India’s chances of repeating the feat at season’s end look bleak – having lost all their pre-takeover points in 2018 – but the the improving VJM11 is proving to be a match for the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team and the Haas F1 Team packages after a difficult start to the year.
“Last year we had a very solid weekend in Suzuka,” Ocon reflected.
“I ran third for a long time before finishing sixth, so hopefully we can have another strong weekend. If we can score a similar result this year it would be a great effort.”
Speaking about Suzuka, Ocon revealed that he is relishing taking on a “difficult lap”, highlighting the “special” flowing, high-speed first sector – as well as praising the enthusiastic crowd.
“I think all the drivers love Suzuka,” the Frenchman added. “The characteristics of the track make it so special – there are big corners, a lot of history and it’s a very difficult lap to get right.
“There are some truly great corners all the way through, but the Esses in the first sector are something special. They’re just so much fun to drive: I love quick changes of direction and the flow through that sector in qualifying, with a light car and lots of grip, feels just awesome.”
“I am looking forward to meeting the Japanese fans,” he continued.
“The welcome they give us is always incredible – they’re supporting you from when you land at the airport and they never stop cheering.
“They’re some of the most passionate we see all year and it gives me so much energy.”
Ocon’s place in Formula 1 for 2019 looks increasingly unlikely, with Williams Martini Racing the only feasible destination for the 22-year-old. Despite significant hints by Red Bull motorsports advisor Helmut Marko that stepping away from the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport junior programme would aid his cause, Ocon and manager Toto Wolff are understandably reluctant to do so. Mercedes boss Wolff sees Ocon as a works driver in the next few years.