Esteban Ocon was in a jubilant mood after the first day of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Wednesday, with the Frenchman happy to be driving his own race car once again.
Ocon sat out the 2019 Formula 1 season after losing his drive with the Racing Point F1 Team to Canadian driver Lance Stroll, with the Frenchman acting as the reserve and test driver for the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team instead.
However, he has returned to a Formula 1 race seat for 2020 after joining the Renault F1 Team in place of Nico Hülkenberg, and he completed sixty-two laps of the Spanish circuit on Wednesday morning in the new R.S.20.
“It feels awesome to be back driving a Formula 1 car,” said Ocon. “I had a big smile on my face leaving the garage as it’s been a while since I’ve had my own race car.
“It’s really cool to think about the thousands of hours which have been put into creating this car and then feeling it come alive on track.”
Ocon feels that it was a solid start, with the Frenchman setting the eighth fastest time of the day, just behind team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who took over the driving duties for the afternoon session.
“In terms of our programme, we’ve made a solid start and we have a good base to work from,” said the Frenchman. “We know we have to keep working this week and make some improvements ready for the first race.
“We have to be precise in our work and make everything count. I’m looking forward to continuing the progress through the week.”
“The improvements are there, and ultimately that’s what we’re targeting” – Ricciardo
Team-mate Ricciardo said he was able to find a rhythm pretty quickly when it was his turn to drive, and he feels there has been definite improvements for the 2020 car compared to the R.S.19 that saw Renault finish fifth in the Constructors’ Championship in 2019.
The Australian finished seventh fastest, completing fifty-six laps, with Ricciardo happy with a problem free day to get pre-season testing underway.
“It’s great to be driving again and I felt quite comfortable in the car from the get-go, which was cool,” said Ricciardo. “Esteban obviously warmed the car up nicely this morning, and I felt I was more or less straight back into it and in a rhythm when it was my turn in the afternoon.
“There are improvements on the car and we’ve obviously changed it a lot visually, which is quite clear when you look at the front nose. The improvements are there, and ultimately that’s what we’re targeting.
“It’s too early to make any comparisons, but our reliability was pretty strong, and I would say it’s promising. You can’t ask for too much more from day one, so I’m happy with that.”