After the 2018 season ended, Esteban Ocon found himself without a set for the 2019 season after Alpine, then Renault, decided that instead of signing the Frenchman for another year they would sign the Australian Daniel Ricciardo. This led him to watch from the garages as a reserve driver for Mercedes.
But this only lasted a year, as Renault decided to sign him back for the 2020 season, the year in which they rebranded to Alpine following the end of the campaign. But what the French driver did not expect was the difficulty of adapting back to the F1 car after a year out of the cockpit.
"It's not easy to fit all the details in Formula 1, but I did probably underestimate how much time it would take me to come back to my full potential after the year out," said Ocon in a post-season media briefing.
"I feel like I'm not completely there yet, but it's not far off so I want to keep going.”
His second season back, 2021, was a strong one for Esteban. He ended the year on 11th place in the drivers’ standings, one place behind two-time world champion and team-mate Fernando Alonso, and scored his first ever F1 victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
"Of course, we, in general, made a big step in terms of understanding, in terms of myself feeling more confident in the car, in terms of just the approach we took, basically from the end of 2020 to 2021 really, really paid off," he declared.
“But I don't want to stop there, I want to take it to the next level even more. I think I'm pleased with how we ended this season, on a strong note.
“There have been some good discussions and I want to keep improving as a sportsman, as an athlete, and I'm looking for that. We have full honesty in the team which means I tell the guys that if they think I can do better in one aspect, they need to tell me straight away, not being afraid,” Ocon said.
"We don't want to have time lost like that, because that could help me to take the next step, all those little details, and that's what I want to keep doing."