Esteban Ocon returned to Formula 1 last year with Renault. After a not so easy year due to the fact that Daniel Ricciardo obtained better results than the French driver, so far 2021 has been a very successful year for Esteban. After having achieved his first podium in the top category of motorsport during the last Sakhir Grand Prix, Ocon has had a boost in his performance and, despite having the two-time world champion, Fernando Alonso, as his teammate, the French driver remains as the leading driver in terms of points at Alpine, his current team and previously Renault. To support this, Esteban has managed to qualify in the third row on the starting grid during the last two races (Portuguese and Spanish Grand Prix), in addition to having scored in three of the four races that have been carried out this year. His best result was P7 in Portugal, also that in three races out of four he has managed to defeat Alonso. Ocon is in ninth position in the drivers' championship with 10 points, while Alpine remains with 15 points and in P5. His performance has been the cause of good statements from Alpine executive director, Marcin Budkowski.
“He improved throughout last year, and he was getting close and closer to Daniel in qualifying. Confidence is one thing – confidence in the team, confidence in himself. The podium did help.” Budkowski stated in an interview as reported by Motorsport.com.
“He did a lot of work during the winter. He is a significantly improved driver, and you can see it in the way he approaches the sessions. We made changes to his race engineering team, we changed his race engineer over the winter (from Mark Slade to Josh Peckett). He’s bonding better with his race engineer and his team overall.” Budkowski commented.
“That’s great, because he can work in a much more constructive way than he was able to last year. And then it’s confidence, it builds up, especially in these kinds of qualifying burners. So if you have to put everything together and you need this kind of osmosis with the cad and the team, this makes a difference.”
The fight for third place in the constructors' championship is very close. On the one hand we have McLaren who will try to defend this position with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo. Ferrari wants to regain their position and they are only 5 points behind McLaren. On the other hand, Alpine is behind the Italians but those of Maranello are 45 points ahead of the French. Alpine's biggest threat is Alpha Tauri, who are sixth in the constructors' championship with 10 points, just 5 behind the French. The start of the season was not as expected by Alpine, however, since the Portuguese Grand Prix, both Alonso and Ocon have adapted even more to their car, establishing themselves as the fifth fastest team. Budkowski admitted that the step the team took in Spain was better and more needed than the one in Portimao.
“Honestly for me, it’s more important that the Portugal one. Portimao was great, because we were on the back of two disappointing races. There was pressure that we were putting on ourselves to perform.”
“The beginning of the season wasn’t up to our expectations, so it was great. It was great for the team, it was great for the drivers, it was great for Esteban. It was great for everybody to be there on third row in Portugal, but we knew the conditions were very tricky.” Budkowski admitted. “Barcelona not only is a benchmark in F1, in terms of where your car is, it’s also a circuit that wasn’t really our favourite in the last few years, and we were particularly poor here last year. It’s a combination of happiness and relief that gains we’re seeing are actually there, and we are making the progress we though we were making.” This is how his interview came to an end.