Esteban Ocon, Renault, Hungaroring, 2020

Why Ocon said he never wants to repeat “horrible” Hungarian GP weekend

2020 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Esteban Ocon made his frustration clear after finishing his third weekend back at the wheel of a Formula 1 car in 14th place.

“That was a horrible weekend guys,” he told his Renault team as he returned to the pits. “We need to have a good review.” It wasn’t the outcome Ocon was expecting at the Hungaroring, a venue he described before the weekend began as “one of my favourite circuits”.

Things started to go wrong in qualifying: Ocon was an encouraging 10th-quickest in Q1. But in Q2 the team tried to progress using the medium compound tyres. They weren’t quick enough, and switching to the softs for the second runs didn’t solve the problem.

Ocon went out in 14th place, fractionally slower than he had been in Q1, and less than a tenth of a second behind team mate Daniel Ricciardo in 11th. “It was a disappointing session,” he said afterwards.

“I’m not happy about how things went, really. There’s a couple of things. Of course the balance of the car didn’t feel very strong, I was not happy with how the car was handling. It was a bit difficult to get it around the lap, to make a clean lap. It was not easy. So there was a bit more potential we could have unlocked there if we had the right balance.

Esteban Ocon, Renault, Hungaroring, 2020
Renault’s tyre gamble in qualifying backfired
“The other thing was the strategy didn’t make our life easy. Qualifying on the medium in the first run of Q2 made it difficult, basically, for the following run just to perform a good lap. It’s important in qualifying to have good consistency between the runs and good improvement between them and that’s not what we had. It made it difficult overall to produce a good quali.”

Had the team got the strategy right, Ocon believes they could have made the top 10. “It’s not because we didn’t qualify well today that the car is not capable of performing,” he said. “If we did exploit everything from the car and did give it 100 percent I think there was a chance of going into Q3. Definitely, that’s my opinion.”

As the race started on a damp track Nicholas Latifi beat Ocon to turn one and Kimi Raikkonen passed him at the exit. With the surface drying out, all the drivers had to grapple with the decision when to switch from intermediate tyres to slicks.

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At the end of lap one, Ocon said the track was “not yet” ready for slick tyres. Moments later he saw Daniil Kvyat ahead of him pit for dry-weather rubber. But Ocon was making progress on his intermediates: he passed George Russell, gained another place when Raikkonen ran wide and then took Lando Norris around the outside of turn one.

Near the end of his third lap Ocon was asked again if he wanted slicks, and once more chose to stay out. But immediately after seeing Pierre Gasly and Latifi ahead of him peel into the pits, he called “next lap”.

He had second thoughts: Valtteri Bottas emerged from the pits ahead of him on slicks and Ocon shot past. “Maybe not,” he said, “have a look”.

“Pretty much everyone else is stopping,” his team advised. That included Ricciardo, five seconds ahead of him, which would potentially cost Ocon more time. “Double stop Esteban, or we do another lap,” he was told.

Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris, Hungaroring, 2020
Norris’s last-lap pass capped a miserable weekend
“What do you want? Tell me,” he replied. “Box, box,” came the call. As Bottas, his slicks now up to temperature, was at the time driving around the outside of Ocon at turn 13, it was clearly past time to give up on the intermediates. Ocon swerved around the back of the Mercedes and into the pits.

“The first pit stop stacking early on in that race made me lose ground, made me lose precious seconds,” said Ocon after the race. But the ‘double stop’ didn’t actually seem to cost Ocon much time: It was Renault’s fastest complete stop of the race, less than seven-tenths off the quickest of the day. What hurt him was the delay in switching to slicks. He rejoined the track 16th, the benefit of those early passes lost.

From there Ocon settled into the predictably frustrating Hungaroring routine of staring at the rear wing of another car: Raikkonen at first, Kvyat later. “From there on because the pace is so close between the cars, it was difficult to come back,” he said later. “We were a little bit stuck.”

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Ocon threw everything at the AlphaTauri driver over the final laps, only to find Norris on his outside at turn two on the final tour, the McLaren driver cheekily demoting him to a lowly 14th place. Ocon oversteered wildly as he returned to the pit straight before taking the chequered flag.

“That was a horrible weekend guys,” he said shortly after crossing the line. “We need to have a good review. I don’t want ever to have a race like this. It was really poor.”

“I agree, it was poor,” concurred his race engineer.

Afterwards, Ocon said his Hungarian Grand Prix was one he would prefer to forget – but knows he and the team have much to learn from.

“It was not a good weekend to start with,” he said. “I think overall we didn’t gain anything from the conditions and we didn’t treat the session right in the end with strategy or anything. So we have to review how we could have done better.”

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

2020 F1 season

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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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18 comments on “Why Ocon said he never wants to repeat “horrible” Hungarian GP weekend”

  1. That pass didn’t get shown on the world feed – hopefully, in the top-ten onboard upload on YT.

  2. The decision making around the right time to come in for slicks is a great example, even in drying conditions, of the fact that the driver is often in the worst possible place to make such decisions

    1. I would actually argue it’s up the driver to make the call in changing conditions @badger74 They told him three times people around him were changing for drys…

  3. Wow. What a great insight. Never knew this case of ‘so-near-yet-so-far’ existed at the previous weekend with Ocon. Hope the official website shows these radio calls with footage. Really shows how quickly all teams have to make decisions in such scenarios

    1. Thanks very much Sumedh!

      1. I agree with Sumedh there @keithcollantine, this article really gave a new insight into what was going on. Good to see you picked up on that and gave us the article!

  4. I can be wrong and don’t intend to be hard on Ocon but from the article, it pretty much seems like he failed to extract the maximum out of the weekend compared to many others although never to underestimate the ‘split-second’ decision making required during stressful moments.

  5. Interesting. One would think they would know not to try anything fancy in qualifying when it’s so tight there, but not that the driver shouldn’t always make the call for slicks.

  6. Defo sounds like a tough weekend and the cards did not fall his way at crucial moments – but also I’m starting to get the impression that his confidence is not sky high either. there’s something to be said for being on the right tyre for the track conditions at that time (i.e. not pitting for wets in expectation of rain…leave that to ferrari!) but the track was not soaked so it was highly likely it would dry very fast once 20 cars start pounding round. waiting “just another lap” was shown to be slower for everyone that dithered (except possibly verstappen).

    given his luck/confidence, he probably would have stuck it in the wall had he switched to slicks earlier so he was stuffed either way!

  7. I actually think Ricciardo and Ocon pitted at the right time to go onto slicks. If you look at the gap to other drivers it seemed they came out in front of others that had stopped the lap before – eg, Ricciardo was behind Sainz, Sainz pitted the lap before and then when Ricciardo pitted he emerged in front of Sainz.

    1. @guybrushthreepwood Not sure how it looked overall but Sainz had a delayed pit stop, think he was held while waiting for a gap in pit lane traffic which cost him a fair bit.

  8. I’m under the impression this guy is not easy to work with.

  9. RocketTankski
    21st July 2020, 14:21

    Ocon needs to get used to disappointment – he is going to be Fernando’s wingman next year :-)

    1. If he wants to do that he needs to speed up!

      1. Giving out Freddos for some Team Motivation might help …. nahhh, been tried, doesn’t work.
        Having Fernando on the team will certainly make for some great entertainment.

  10. Lando did what on the last lap?!

  11. Can’t wait to see this guy getting absolutely destroyed by Alonso.

    1. kuvemar .. watch the “Best Onboards” clip at 1:28 on Formula 1 youtube channel and you’ll find out :)

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