Esteban Ocon, Force India, Suzuka, 2018

2018 F1 driver rankings #10: Ocon

2018 F1 season review

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There is no question Esteban Ocon does not deserve to spend the 2019 F1 season on the sidelines. However if he wants to get his hands on a Mercedes one day there are still areas he needs to improve.

For his second full season in F1, Ocon had clearly worked on his one-lap pace. He reversed his 13-7 defeat in qualifying to Sergio Perez last year and convincingly beat his team mate over the course of the season. He also finished ahead of his team mate more often than not.

This begs the question how Perez managed to out-score him. The answer is that Perez’s sense of self-preservation was more finely-tuned than his team mate’s.

Ocon was the first of the pair to pick up a point as Force India struggled with the VJM11 in the opening races. But at Baku, a track which has always suited the team’s cars, Ocon squandered a podium chance by turning in on Kimi Raikkonen at the start. He spent the rest of the season trying in vain to make up for the 15-point windfall that came Perez’s way on that day.

Still, it was a lesson learned. After qualifying an excellent third on the grid at Spa, Ocon found himself fighting the front runners on the first lap again. This time he wisely backed out of it, though it cost him a position and ultimately fifth place to Perez.

The weekend was a turning point for Ocon as it saw Force India emerge from administration as Racing Point, from when it was inevitable he would have to make was for Lance Stroll in the team’s 2019 line-up.

Esteban Ocon

Beat team mate in qualifying16/21
Beat team mate in race9/14
Races finished15/21
Laps spent ahead of team mate610/1021
Qualifying margin-0.115s (adjusted)

This seemed to have little effect on his performance: he continued to show Perez the way in qualifying, but his efforts to overhaul him in the points standings were ultimately frustrated. A strong sixth at Monza narrowed the gap, but his hard work in Austin was undone when he was disqualified on a technicality. He spoiled his race in Mexico by needlessly tangling with Sainz.

More frustration follow in Brazil where a gearbox change penalty relegated him on the grid. He was on course to finish one place behind his team mate when he emerged from the pits behind his old karting and F3 rival Max Verstappen, who he was told to pass.

Verstappen clearly wanted to keep Ocon behind, yet the Force India driver made a bid for the inside and the pair collided. It was an unfathomable move, yet one that perhaps sent the message to Mercedes that if they ever call on his services he isn’t afraid of going wheel-to-wheel with one of F1’s toughest racers.

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Over to you

Had a really strong year and showed some incredible pace in qualifying. He was consistently quicker than a highly rated Perez, and could have even taken a podium if it wasn’t for his silly error in Baku. Ocon still needs improvement of his race craft, but overall he was one of the most impressive midfield drivers the season.

What’s your verdict on Esteban Ocon’s 2018 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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49 comments on “2018 F1 driver rankings #10: Ocon”

  1. Stephen Higgins
    14th December 2018, 8:16

    A decent season and way more worthy of the Forca India seat than the undeserving Canadian upstart, but that clash with Max in Brazil blotted his copybook somewhat.

    He’ll keep Bottas on his toes next season though if he’s let out to play often enough

    1. Shouldn’t the desire to win, or even just the need to beat the Ferrari and RBR drivers, have kept him on his toes in 2018?

    2. Will he? If Mercedes were that impressed with him they’d have a: given him Bottas’ seat or b: made sure he got a drive somewhere.

      1. @tflb Mercedes tried everything it could except unseat Bottas to get Ocon a seat (and at the time Bottas was signed, they thought Ocon had his pick of two decent offers). The trouble was that it tried so hard that, psuedopolitically, it tripped over its own feet.

      2. I think Toto wanted to give Ocon more experience before putting him in his car. Unfortunately, he didn’t see what would happen to Force India.

    3. I sort of liked the way that Ocon was willing to mix it up, and having a go at Max in Brazil. Even though that it was a rough move on his part. It showed that he isn’t at all being intimidated by Verstappen, which is good.

  2. Your emphasis on points scored over actual performance is baffling. Ocon destroyed Perez. How is he 10th and Perez higher?

    1. Destroyed Perez????? you clearly were living in a parallel universe of your own delusion. Ocon was a faster qualifier, but Perez had more pace in the race and took advantages of situations. The game is scoring points and for two seasons Sergio has bettered Ocon. Perez might have had a bit better luck this seasom but I would say they are evenly matched.

    2. @hahostolze what were you watching? Yes Ocon was consistently a tiny bit quicker in qualifying but he was slower in the races. Perez also lost more points due to bad luck, in Mexico for example. I don’t think anyone in their right mind would say he was destroyed by Ocon. Also when did Ocon have a race which made everyone sit up and think ‘wow, that was great’? That’s right, never. Perez in 8th or 9th and Ocon 10th would seem about right for me, although I woukd have put both above Gasly.

      1. (Ocon) was slower in the races.

        yet Ocon beat Perez on ‘laps ahead’ by almost 50%; more than can be explained by Perez’ ‘bad luck’ I’d say.

        1. @coldfly no, that can be explained by Ocon’s better qualifying. Yes he spent more laps ahead, but not as many as maybe he should have, qualifying ahead so frequently. How often were the Force Indias seen nose to tail? Very frequently. And Perez got the better results where it really mattered.

        2. @coldfly I would say ‘laps ahead’ is a pretty meaningless statistic, especially for the midfield teams, whose drivers were often on split strategies. as Qarbon said, the name of the game is to score points. perez has that uncanny ability to take those ever decreasing number of chances to score big points; it’s tough to rank ocon below perez, but you can make an argument either way.

          the sad thing is ocon leaving the sport, purely because of the number and political makeup of the teams (like werhlein). his contractual status bars him from most of the grid, so he (and toto) were kind of painted into a corner. another season at FI would have been a fitting reward, but stroll’s money put paid to that.

          1. To end this debate Ocon beat perez 16 to 5 in quali with margins that could go from a tenth like in Hungary to 4 tetnths like in France and Spain to 6 tenths in Canada.

            In the races Ocon beat him 8 to 6 for the taces they’ve both finished

          2. Thanks for the well-argued reply, @frood19 (and @tflb).
            However, it hasn’t swayed me from my own dissenting opinion on what’s important.
            IMO points scored for mid/low field teams is not that important. It is primarily swayed by the top teams not finishing (Baku) and being lucky to still be in the race yourself (Perez).
            Laps ahead though shows who is really faster (either from quali) or from overtaking. And with such a big difference between the 2 in the same car it will be hard to find strategy differences explaining it (strategy difference tends to impact both of them and equal out over the season).

            Agree that Ocon not being in F1 is tough. But the blame is fully on Toto (and Ocon’s desire to stick with the Mercedes backing). Mercedes has the most seats available (with Ferrari), but still Toto decided that he’d rather give those seats to Bottas (lower in the ranking) and Russelll (rookie).
            And can we please allow an owner who saved 400 jobs and a team to allocate 1 seat to his son (who’s not a slough). Ferrari and now Mercedes have done the same by keeping the 2nd seat occupied by a slower driver rather than putting the next best driver in it.

          3. @coldfly that’s probably fair (but a bit harsh to describe vettel as a slower 2nd driver…time will tell :))

          4. Ocon beat Perez 9 to 6 in the races they’ve both finished, to say that he was faster is in the races just because he has more points is a pretty bold statement, plus the margins in quali were not always tiny in Canada ocon had a margin of 6 tethns on perez 4 tenths in france spain and USA and 4 tethns in Russia

  3. I disagree that a better ‘sense of self-preservation’ should award you a better ranking than the guy beating you on Saturday and Sunday in the same car.

    Let’s not start rewarding bland drivers in F1

    1. @coldfly

      I agree. Sense of ‘self preservation’ was at its best when he put his teammate on the wall to protect his position in Singapore. Honestly, if it wasn’t for Perez putting Ocon in the wall, and Ocon’s disqualification in Spa. He’d have finished in front of Perez in the points, in quali and in head to head race finishes.

      I have no idea what Perez has done to Keith to deserve his good graces. But there is no way in hell Perez was better than Ocon this year.

    2. @coldfly depends how you look at it. Perez got the most out of every opportunity during the year. Esteban clearly had the pace to achieve the peaks Perez did (3rd at Baku, 4th at Spa) yet he failed to do so. Not to mention Interlagos…

      We criticized the Haas guys for the exact same reason, not being able to take that car where it deserved. As bland as Perez might be (and I agree he’s never going to be a star), he gets the job done and stays out of trouble. That’s one kind of skill.

      I don’t agree however that Ocon is lower than Gasly and Raikkonen.

      1. With this i’m not justifying Perez’s position over Ocon, just saying there’s value in “self preservation”. For me they were pretty much even.

        1. Yes, I’d have put perez ahead too, ocon should’ve done better than he did if he wanted to be the next verstappen; this is just another perez.

  4. This about right, better than Valtteri but still less mature than Sergio.

  5. After qualifying an excellent third on the grid at Spa, Ocon found himself fighting the front runners on the first lap again. This time he wisely backed out of it, though it cost him a position

    To me, this was the smartest move he made. If he carries forward this maturity, he would do well in the future when he gets a race seat.

    1. hopefully he can take that for next season and whenever you are paired with him in a playstation F1 game server he doesn’t run you off the track in the first corner as most of them do

      1. @johnmilk – ha ha ha, the joke’s on him. I usually run myself off at the first turn, with no third-party assistance required.

  6. This is just about right, he improved allot in qualifying this year, but on race day he still lacks compared to Perez.
    I liked is season last year more then this year, he had some great drives last year, this year his only race I can remember is Monaco were I really did great.
    Perez had some great races this year Baku Germany Spa and Monza are the standouts, and all races that I think Ocon started ahead.
    He is still young, but he needs to improve his race craft fast or he will lose to Russel the Mercedes drive

  7. Having seen the full on board from ocon with team radio in the laps leading up to the verstsppen clash in Brazil it puts a different perspective on it.

    Ocon costs himself a lot of time after exiting the pits letting verstsppen pass. Over next lap and a half he is clearly quicker and has a look into turns 1 and 3. Half way round the lap max acknowledges that there is a force India pushing like crazy behind and is told the force India is on fresh Supersofts. Half a lap later the clash happens.

    With perspective I believe it was simply arrogance on verstappens part that caused the incident.

    1. You clearly missed the extra dot of throttle between turn 1 and 2…apart from what you think of Verstappen, Ocon had no right to fight the raceleader. If Verstappen caused the incident then it’s only cause Ocon was in his way….and backmarkers are not to allowed compromise the race leader in any way.
      Another kind of logic issue is when Ocon would get in front of Verstappen, the latter would have got DRS and the roles would be reversed again… compromising the race leaders race.

      The rules mention a backmarker may only overtake if he immediately can pull away from the raceleader, Ocon was fighting the raceleader to turn 2 wich simply isn’t allowed

      1. But as Lewis Hamilton told Max Verstappen in the cool room, Esteban Ocon had less to lose than him. Ocon made a “driving mistake”, while Verstappen made a “racecraft mistake”. Verstappen should have been more careful and be like “Ok, you want to overtake the race leader ? Do it if you like, I don’t care”.

        1. But as Verstappen acknowledged, Ocon in front of him would seriously compromize his speed in dirty air and ik about one or two laps he would have passed Ocon again. Costing serious time doing so only to the advantage of Hamilton.
          Not to mention the fact Ocon as a Mercedes driver easely could compromise the race of Verstappen. Looking at the embarrassing moments during the races where Ocon let a Mercedes pass al to easily.

      2. @Matn No such rules exist. In fact, the rules do not differentiate between any fights between cars that don’t involve valid blue flags, regardless of their respective race positions.

  8. Overall a decent season. The most significant errors by him were definitely the ones in Azerbaijan and Brazil. The former could’ve easily been avoided had he given more room to Kimi who was significantly enough alongside him to be obligated to get sufficient space as that corner is wide enough for side-by-side driving with two cars. The latter, on the other hand, is definitely the biggest mistake of his short F1 career so far, and the one that won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

    BTW, ”He spoiled his race in Mexico by needlessly tangling with Sainz”
    – I think it might’ve actually been Hulkenberg instead although it wasn’t entirely clear from the onboard footage at the time.

  9. If only the collision between him and Checo in Belgim 2017 didn’t happen, his career would not have been ruined…

    1. Was that collision lead Force India to administration?

      1. No. But it was the incident that forced team orders for the duo not to race each other for the rest of the season (and facilitated the same thing happening after Singapore this year), which may have cost Ocon several opportunities to beat his team-mate on the track when they were line astern.

        It’s not just the hit to the impression of the duo’s maturity (that could have cost him candidacy of Bottas’ 2019 Mercedes seat in itself). It’s the loss of opportunities for true establishment of pecking order.

  10. Gasly ahead of Ocon? I think i have to re-watch all the races of 2018 again !!!

  11. Musisi Kiwanuka
    14th December 2018, 10:11

    Not sure how the Baku argument comes into play. Ocon outscored Perez 25-24 over the first ten races (which encompass Baku). Perez beat Oxon soundly after the summer break (38-24). To my eyes, Perez was the better driver because race drivers are evaluated primarily on what they do on Sunday. Qualifying is relevant because we assume better track position = better race performance. Perez is a solid midfielder. It speaks very ill of Ocon that two years running, Perez has beaten him with something to spare. Perez brings the money. He also brings the point. Sort of makes Ocon irrelevant.

    1. Not sure if you’re aware that in without the USA DSQ it would have been 28 for Ocon and 32 for Perez that is without counting the Japan and Brazil technical grid oenalties that Perez didn’t have amd the mechanical DNF in Abu Dhabi in the total of 6 DNFs plus in the first half of the season apart from Baku perez scored only 6 points
      Plus in the races head to head Ocon beat Perez 9 to 6

      So the idea that Ocon is better only in qualy is merly a stereotype based on the perception that because he has more pints he is better in the races

  12. This begs the question how Perez managed to out-score him. The answer is that Perez’s sense of self-preservation was more finely-tuned than his team mate’s.

    And that is nonsense. Pérez outscored Ocon because of Baku, and pretty much nothing else. Ocon did crash (avoidably) in Baku, but so did Pérez. The sole difference between them was that Ocon was unlucky enough to break a suspension, while Pérez was lucky enough to suffer damage to replaceable parts. And then he went on to collect a podium finish that had virtually nothing to do with how well he, or anyone else, drove. Because, let’s face it: Baku was a bloody roulette in which the results simply fell into place in one way or another, not a race in which a driver/car combination’s performance over the course of Saturday and Sunday broadly determined the results.
    This whole thing hinges on that one freak race that’s pretty much the textbook example for why luck is oftentimes far more important than a driver’s skill, especially in the case of the Force India duo. And that makes this ranking farcical.

    1. Ocon had an advantage of one point at the summer break, in the second part of the season Perez outsourced Ocon by fourteen points…


  13. It’s not easy to rank Ocon and Perez without taking into account the fact that their team was heading into administration and that Ocon was going to end up without a drive for 2019. Actually both drivers performed very well when you consider the fact that their concentration and desire to compete must have been affected. In comparison, Gasly was being promoted to Red Bull after less than 1 year with Toro Rosso and Leclerc was being promoted to Ferrari after a few races so their spirits were soaring while Ocon’s world was crumbling.

    The crash with Verstappen was almost symbolic of Ocon’s situation in F1 – another fellow young driver that has been promoted to a top team while Ocon doesn’t have a drive. And we are not even including Russell or Norris… Sure, he could be driving for Mercedes next year but Bottas might score 300+ points which would make it hard to swap him for Ocon.

    In my opinion Ocon beat Perez by a slight margin with the exception of Baku where Perez does what Perez does best – put a midfield car on a podium. In the end, Perez deserves the Force India drive more than Ocon. This may sound like an insult but Perez is really the best midfield racer probably seen in the history of F1 – like Marcelo at Real Madrid who redefined the left backer position, he has redefined midfield racing and deserves to be ahead of Ocon just for that reason. Kudos to Ocon for really, really putting up a tremendous fight against Perez over the 2 years.

    1. @freelittlebirds

      In the end, Perez deserves the Force India drive more than Ocon. This may sound like an insult but Perez is really the best midfield racer probably seen in the history of F1

      I have no idea what you’re talking about. In this millennium itself there has been Kubica, Heidfeld, Rosberg and Webber. They were all far more superior midfield drivers than Perez will ever be.

      1. I would assume he means midfield drivers who never had a chance to drive a front running car. Otherwise you could include almost anyone as a ‘midfield driver’ (e.g. Alonso 2014-2018, altho perhaps midfield is a generous description of the recent McLarens). Either way it’s very high praise for Perez, he’s very opportunistic and a solid driver but I think Lady Luck has been on his side to bag as many podiums as he has.

        1. Hulkenberg?
          And he’s not even ‘history’ yet ;)

        2. Heidfeld never had a top drive. He was a far superior driver than Perez. Kubica as well.

          Hulkenberg is a better midfield driver as well. One could argue that Trulli was better as well. Glock before he made the silly move to Marrussia looked impressive as well.

          I don’t think Perez has anything more than any of the drivers mentioned above.

        3. Pedro Lamy

      2. you seem to have missed 2016.. rosberg the best midfield driver with a worldchampionship in his pocket ;)
        So at least that year Hamilton was a slower midfield driver …LOL

        1. I meant in his midfield days. Which was like 6 to 7 seasons.

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