Esteban Ocon became the thirteenth different driver to stand on a Formula 1 podium in 2020 on Sunday, with the Frenchman securing an excellent second place in the Sakhir Grand Prix.
The Renault DP World F1 Team made places up early on after starting eleventh, capitalising on the collision between Sergio Pérez and Charles Leclerc that saw the former spin and the latter retire in the barriers. Max Verstappen was also caught up in the incident and saw his race ended.
Ocon drove strongly throughout the eighty-seven laps around the outer track of the Bahrain International Circuit and moved up into the podium places when the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team blew their own chances by messing up pit stops for both George Russell and Valtteri Bottas.
He admitted crying as he crossed the line for his first career podium finish, and he hopes that this is the turning point after what has been an often-tough 2020 season for the Frenchman after returning to the grid after a year out of the sport.
“What a race! We made it, we’re on the podium and it’s a fantastic feeling,” said Ocon. “It was awesome and all the emotions left my body when I crossed the line.
“I definitely cried and I’m proud to say it. That moment, crossing the line, I’ll remember it forever.
“The team executed the race really well, we had strong pace, and I had some fun out there with some overtakes too. It’s been a tough season but we kept believing in ourselves and that’s rewarded with this amazing feeling.
“Keep believing and it will come at some point! We’ve progressed massively this year and next week it’s back to it to focus on ending the season as best as we can.”
“There wasn’t much I could do in the DRS train” – Daniel Ricciardo
Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo ended his penultimate race with Renault with a fifth-place finish, but the Australian felt there was a better result in him.
Ricciardo, who had scored two podiums earlier in the year at the Eifel and Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, was stuck for much of the race in a train of drivers all able to use the Drag Reduction System, and as a result he was unable to better fifth when his team-mate was securing silverware.
“It’s an amazing result for the team and congratulations to Esteban for getting his first ever podium, it was a really strong race by him and his side of the garage,” said Ricciardo. “For me it was slightly disappointing as we could have done even better than fifth.
“I was happy with my start and I felt like there was a lot of opportunity being in fourth after lap one. We then boxed and lost ground to [Daniil] Kvyat and stayed behind him for a while. We managed to get back ahead after the second stop but there wasn’t much I could do in the DRS train.
“We go at it again next weekend and try finish the season strong.”
Abiteboul Pleased to See Ocon Take Maiden Formula 1 Podium
Cyril Abiteboul says it was pleasing to see Ocon be able to experience the ‘good vibes’ that have been present at Renault since the summer, and the result proves that the team are continuing making progress towards the front of the field.
Abiteboul, the Team Principal at Renault, says Ocon had a strong weekend around the Bahrain International Circuit, with his only ‘challenging moment’ coming when he was eliminated in Q2 when he had showed the kind of pace needed to start inside the top ten all weekend long.
However, Abiteboul reckons the free choice of starting tyre for starting eleventh actually played into his hands, and he was pleased that he showed good aggression throughout the eighty-seven-lap race, both in attack and defence.
“If a result like today is a team effort, it’s clearly one for Esteban,” said Abiteboul. “I am very, very happy for him that he can also experience for himself the good vibes that we’ve been having since the summer shutdown when the team’s progression has accelerated.
“We’ve had two podiums with Daniel and this time round it was with Esteban and we are all very grateful for that. His weekend was strong, the only challenging moment was in Q2 when we failed to progress into Q3. But that actually may have helped with the free starting tyre choice.
“From that point onwards, he drove a very strong race, managing to preserve the tyres at the start, be aggressive when it mattered and defending very well at the end against faster cars.”
Abiteboul feels they could have done a better job with Ricciardo in the other R.S.20, and although fifth place was good, they could have done with scoring more points after seeing the BWT Racing Point Formula One Team finishing first and third.
“There is a feeling that maybe we could have done a bit better with Daniel, which would have helped a bit our Constructors’ Championship situation,” said Abiteboul.
“We’ll give our maximum in Abu Dhabi next weekend with the particular double thought and motivation of our last race with Daniel and as Renault F1 Team.”