Esteban Ocon felt ‘reasonably pleased’ with his performance in the Monaco Grand Prix two weeks ago, despite the Frenchman struggling to a ninth-place finish.
After two promising weekends in Portugal and Spain, the Alpine F1 Team did not have the best of outings at the Circuit de Monaco, but Ocon was able to score two points despite not having the same kind of pace as those around him.
Ocon admits Alpine expected to be more competitive than they were in Monaco, but he does expect them to be higher up the field this coming weekend in Azerbaijan.
“I left Monaco feeling reasonably pleased,” insisted the Frenchman. “We’ve made it four points-scoring finishes in a row, and we want to keep that going.
“Monaco underlined some areas we need to improve. We had expected to be more competitive than what we achieved, so we go to Baku aiming to put ourselves higher inside the top ten.
“I’ve not been to Baku for a couple of years and, like last weekend, I’ll build up my confidence in the car through the practice sessions.”
Ocon has not raced at the Baku City Circuit since 2018, having sat out the 2019 season and the track dropping off the calendar last year due to COVID-19. However, he is excited to return to the track on which is likely to be a much different weekend compared to Monaco, especially when it comes to on-track action.
“I like racing in Baku,” said Ocon. “It’s a very unusual circuit where, as we’ve seen in the past, anything can happen. It’s an interesting layout with the long straights, followed by some very challenging and closely spaced corners in sector two.
“We go from one street circuit in Monaco, a short lap and difficult for overtaking, to Baku, another street circuit, which is almost opposite as it’s long with plenty of overtaking spots. The atmosphere at these city-based street circuits is always great.
“Everything feels really close to the track and you can feel the sensation of speed even more. It’s a circuit where you can see three or more cars go wheel to wheel down the straights, which, on a street track, is incredible. That’s what makes the race in Baku so exciting as there are opportunities to make some places.
“It’s a bit tricky on finding the right balance between straight line speed for the straights while not taking too much downforce off the car to allow you to make up lap-time through some of the slower corners.”
“It’s a challenging weekend for both car and driver” – Fernando Alonso
Team-mate Fernando Alonso says he is feeling more and more confident with every race this year, with the Spaniard continuing to adapt to life back in Formula 1 after a two-year hiatus.
Alonso has scored points in only two of the first five races, but the two-time World Champion is continuing to learn and understand more about the A521. However, he knows this year is all in preparation for the rule changes that are coming in for 2022.
“I’m feeling more and more confident with each race,” said Alonso. “I think we can see that it’s taking a bit of time for those in new teams this year to adjust and for me it’s the same.
“It’s a process and we’re always learning and trying to find ways to improve the car. But we are aware that 2022 is going to be an important year and this is in some ways a preparation year.
“The car has felt good in races like Portimão and Barcelona, so we are confident we can build on these performances and lessons to score more consistent points to fight with the teams around us in the championship.”
Like Ocon, Alonso has not raced in Azerbaijan since 2018, and he is ready to race at a venue where overtaking is much easier compared to the last two events in Spain and Monaco.
“I always enjoy racing here in Baku,” said the Spaniard, who finished seventh in Baku in 2018 despite ending lap one with two punctures. “It’s a good circuit with lots of challenging corners and overtaking opportunities. After two races in a row – where it was quite tough to overtake – it’s nice to have a race where it’s more possible.
“I’ve qualified outside the top ten in my past two races here but gone on to finish inside the points. It shows anything can happen in what is usually a very unpredictable weekend.
“The circuit has a mix of areas where the priority is top speed, with the middle sector more dependent on downforce and mechanical grip. It’s a challenging weekend for both car and driver and finding a good balance with the setup will be very important.”