Racing Point Force India F1 Team driver Esteban Ocon says he is “excited” by the potential of the VJM11, after the Frenchman finished both Japanese Grand Prix Formula 1 practice sessions in seventh place.
Ocon, whose future in F1 remains uncertain, was the victor of the so-called ‘Class B’ championship in the series, after he ended both ninety-minute Friday sessions in with just the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport, Scuderia Ferrari, and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing teams ahead of him.
In the opening session, Ocon completed twenty-eight laps of the Suzuka circuit, with his best time being a 1m:30.591. Later in the afternoon, he lowered his best time, which came during the qualifying simulations, to a 1m:30.035.
After comprehensively out-performing team-mate Sergio Pérez, Ocon was confident that the team can continue to maximise its recent upgrade package and put in a strong qualifying performance on Saturday.
“I am particularly excited because I think there’s still a bit more to come from our side and we can improve the car balance ahead of qualifying,” he explained.
“It was a solid day of work to start our weekend, and I am happy with what we achieved.”
The Suzuka circuit demands a compromise in set-up to cope with the drastic change in layout presented. Downforce is vital in the first sector, where the famed esses demand “precision” from the driver, but on the long straights that make up a majority of the rest of the lap, this downforce creates drag, which lowers the outright top-speed of the car.
“This is a very difficult track to get right, when it comes to the set-up, so it will be a challenge for us to get all the details right,” acknowledges Ocon.
“The track is mega quick, even more so than last year. Precision is very important as it’s very easy to make mistakes.
“You need to be at one with the car, which is never easy, but is so rewarding when you get it right.”