Esteban Ocon praised the efforts of the Racing Point Force India F1 Team after qualifying for the Formula 1 season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, believing the team “extracted the best” of its package, as he qualified in ninth place.
Ocon, who will step down from a race seat at Force India in 2019 in favour of Lance Stroll, whose father Lawrence’s consortium rescued the ailing team from administration, advanced to Q3 at the Yas Marina Circuit, posting the ninth quickest time in the segment to line-up alongside Nico Hülkenberg on the fifth row.
Team-mate Sergio Pérez could only manage 14th on the grid, meaning Frenchman Ocon, who suffered an engine problem in final practice, out-qualified the Mexican 16-5 across the season, while also leading 8-4 in races where both cars have finished.
“I am pretty pleased with the overall result,” commented Ocon. “My Q1 lap was really good and I think we really extracted the best from the car across the session.”
“We missed out on track time in final practice, but it was a great effort from the team to get the car ready for qualifying and make Q3.”
Ocon will start the race on the pink-walled hypersoft tyre, and despite the brittle nature to the compound, is confident that the team can make the strategy work.
“There will be a threat from the cars outside the top 10,” he said, highlighting the fact that those who did not make it through to Q3 will avoid the hypersofts, and start the race on the more durable ultrasoft Pirelli rubber.
“[They will be] starting on better tyres, but hopefully we can make out strategy work starting on the hypersoft. It will be a tricky one but it will be interesting.”
Although he is stepping down from a race seat at Force India, Ocon will become the reserve driver at the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport squad, with Mercedes’ motorsport chief Toto Wolff confirming the move after attempts to find a seat proved futile.