Having been caught out in Qualifying and left with no potential to improve in the race, Esteban Ocon’s first grand prix of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 season didn’t get off to the best of starts.
The Frenchman started sixteenth and lingered around the fringes of the points-paying positions for the majority of the Bahrain Grand Prix whilst his team-mate Fernando Alonso suffered mechanical issues that rendered him unable to reach the checkered flag, yet Ocon still believes top-ten finishes will soon come for Alpine F1 Team and that the next race at Imola will be a big opportunity for the team.
“It wasn’t the start to the season we hoped for, but there’s positives to take” Said Esteban.
” There are areas we know we can do better, and we go to Imola targeting an improved result. In Bahrain, starting in sixteenth just meant we had to catch up in the race. We know it was a bit of bad luck there but qualifying higher up on the grid will enable us to be in a better position to fight for points.”
Whilst he goes into this weekend with a tremendous amount of optimism, Ocon’s last race at Imola wouldn’t exactly warrant his good cheer. After a reliability issue mid-race, Esteban was forced to retire- thus scoring no points- as his then-team-mate Daniel Ricciardo took his second podium of the season.
As a result, Esteban says he has ‘unfinished business’ at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari. He says racing around the historic circuit in 2020 was ‘a lot of fun’, explaining that all the tight angles and tricky kerbs make the track ‘a great challenge’ that he ‘can’t wait’ to drive.
Alonso: “Let’s hope all our bad luck was used up in Bahrain”
Arguably the driver with worse luck than Ocon, Fernando Alonso- driver of the #14 car for Alpine- says he hopes the team’s bad luck was ‘used up in Bahrain.’
In a rather comical manner, Alonso’s evening in the desert was cut short by mechanical problems. Namely, overheating in the rear brakes caused by a rogue sandwich bag. Still, the Spaniard says he enjoyed his Formula 1 return nonetheless.
“It was really enjoyable. I have missed the feeling and adrenaline that comes with qualifying in Formula 1, it’s like no other competition.
“We were very pleased to make it into Q3 on Saturday and I felt comfortable to push quite hard. The result in the race was obviously not as we expected, but we were very unlucky to retire the way we did and, of course, Esteban was unfortunate to start where he did.
“In saying all of this, we had some fun battles on the track, and I look forward to some more this weekend.”
The retirement mean that both Fernando and Alpine could score no points during the season opener- a stat which Alonso himself is eager to change. The circuit is one at which he has enjoyed vast success as it saw him emerge victorious in 2005, the year he went on to win his first drivers world title.
“I do like the Imola racetrack and I was glad to see it return to Formula 1 last year. It threw up an exciting race in 2020 and I think some of the changes to the circuit since I raced here over ten years ago has improved the racing.”