Esteban Ocon, Renault, Bahrain International Circuit, 2020

Podium a relief for emotional Ocon after “very difficult” criticism

2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

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Esteban Ocon said his first podium finish in the Sakhir Grand Prix was an “awesome” result following the criticism he has faced over a difficult season since he returned to F1.

The Renault driver has been out-paced by team mate Daniel Ricciardo for much of the year. As well as taking his first podium, Ocon’s second place is Renault’s best result since they returned to F1 in 2016.

“It’s been awesome to get finally that result,” he said. “It’s not been easy but we were seeing that progress coming.

“It just didn’t always turn our way in the end and that’s what was frustrating in a way. Finally, it came. We always believed in ourselves, that’s the most important thing.”

Ocon came into the penultimate race trailling Ricciardo by 102 points to 42. He admitted finding it a challenge to cope with the criticism he has received at times.

“When you are not performing at the best in this sport, it’s something very difficult because you are getting critics. You are getting a lot of different things around you but the people around you who are important, they always support you.

“That has helped me a lot. The team has helped me to keep believing in myself and keep pushing. And today we did so, so very pleased with that.”

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Ocon’s parents made significant financial sacrifices to support his junior racing career. “They must be unbelievably happy,” he said, “I hope – I didn’t have the chance to call them yet but as soon as we are done with everything, I will be spending good time with them.”

Ocon stood on the podium for the first time in F1
After making his F1 debut with Manor in 2016, Ocon spent two years at Force India, but lost his drive after the team was purchased by Lawrence Stroll, and turned into Racing Point. Having been backed by Mercedes, he spent a year as their reserve driver before joining Renault.

“[It was] a difficult journey to arrive here,” he said. “A lot of sacrifices from my early days. it was not easy to get into F1 and stop, last year, and not easy to get back in.

“I had a new team, strong team mate against me. We were seeing the progress, it was coming, but it never really paid off until today.”

Ocon finished behind his former team mate Perez and ahead of Lance Stroll, who he lost his seat to at the end of 2018, but remains on good terms with.

“It was such a cool race and congratulations to Checo, but also to Lance, my mate. We had a good fight together through turn four, it was good fun.”

“All the emotions that came when I crossed that line were unbelievable,” said Ocon, describing the experience of taking the chequered flag in second place. “I never cry, for anything. But I tell you today that the tears, they came and they came for good reasons of being happy.”

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2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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23 comments on “Podium a relief for emotional Ocon after “very difficult” criticism”

  1. First ex-Manor driver to stand on a F1 podium.
    And he was on the rostrum with his ex-team Racing Point, former teammate Perez and friend Stroll.

    1. Didn’t Ricciardo also drive for them @jeff1s, or was that a previous incarnation/campos-HRT?

      1. @bosyber The team Ricciardo drove for, HRT, was a different team and not another incarnation of Manor/Marussia/Virgin

    2. Ghe, between all three options (Haryanto, Wehrlein, Ocon) I guess he was going to have the best chance anyway – definitely this year.

  2. Yeah he had a gap year, then 5 months of f1 and numerous DNF to get a lucky podium. It’s not bad.

    I hope he does better in 2021

    1. With Alonso as teammate?
      I really doubt that.

      1. do you think Alonso will still be performing at a high level?
        I doubt it, I have a feeling it will be like Schumachers Mercedes-adventure
        I hope Alonso surpises me though

  3. He probably needs to accept that Ricciardo is the slightly better F1 driver though.

    1. What now.. a posting without a dig on Verstappen?

  4. I saw his pass on Stroll and thought, this is the old Ocon, he’s back. He drove a solid first stint on the mediums and that pass on Stroll gave him second.

    Good to see him performing well, he’s the one driver who has actually been improving over the season and while he’s statistically still being mauled by Ric over the season he’s rarely leagues behind.

    1. This exactly. Being out of a car for a year certainly hasn’t helped and rarely does and he is up against one of the top few drivers.
      I think Renault would be quite happy with his steady improvement this year which hopefully will continue next year. It will indeed be interesting next year when he is the one with a years experience in the car and Alonso is the one that has been out of the cars for a period of time.

  5. He is about as much behind ricciardo as vandoorne was behind alonso. Not good enough in a fairly top team. Remember he replaced Hulkenburg and hasnt lived up to his previous mercedes backed hype, and hasnt been as good as hulkenburg was.

    1. Well I guess Ocon now is a podium-finisher where Hulkenberg never made it in 9 seasons.

    2. after 5 months of being in the renault and 1 year away, against a dude 1,5 years in the same car. lol how do you manage to think.

  6. If Ocon still was at Racing Point, that would give me a bigger smile.

  7. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    7th December 2020, 13:40

    Well, it’s a podium but Sainz and Ricciardo pitted taking them out of podium and victory contention. Verstappen and Leclerc went out early. Bottas and Russell had major tyre and pit issues.

    I think his overall pace was good for P7. I think he just raced like he has the whole year.

  8. @freelittlebirds Sainz and Ricciardo were on two stop strategies, Ocon was on a one. Your logic suggests one-stop strategies are always guaranteed better results, which would mean two stop strategies are useless.

    If you meant that Sainz and Ricciardo lost time because they pitted after a VSC, you’d be wrong. All they did was not gain anything, without the VSC they would still have to pit under green flag conditions anyway.

    Plus the Safety Car actually closed up the pack and allowed Sainz and Ricciardo to use their fresh tyres to put pressure on the one stoppers, which they couldn’t partly because they were delayed by Bottas falling back.

    I don’t know why Ocon is getting so little love, his drive was pretty strong, he was never too far off the two-stoppers despite being on a harder compound, and then passed a faster Racing Point on track and held him off. He would have likely finished ahead of Ricciardo on merit in the race.

    1. This was supposed to be a reply, gah. Sorry.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        7th December 2020, 14:34

        @wrsgo you’re right, all 3 drivers that ended up on the podium were technically on a 1 stopper. Perez was on a 1 stop after switching to the medium at the start of the race and then went to Hards like Ocon. Ocon also went Medium to Hard. Stroll also did a 1 stopper but the hard way – soft to medium. Would Stroll have won the race if he had gone Medium to Hard or just taken on Hards at the end?

        You’re also right that Sainz and Ricciardo weren’t in contention as they had decided to do a 2 stopper – I do have to wonder why since Stroll pulled a one stopper and ended up on the podium. I guess McLaren and Renault really wanted to keep some rubber on the tyres throwing away a win in the process. Rubber = victory in their dictionary:-)

        This is why you 1 stop – with decent pace, you can get a lot of podiums just by driving around the lap watching after the tyres:-) Of course, it’s a lot harder to be in P1 and look after the tyres as we’ve seen Lewis somehow do more times than anyone else.

        If I can impart any wisdom to an aspiring F1 strategist whose team isn’t on the podium weekend in and weekend out it would be to learn the words, one stop! You really can’t go that wrong by one-stopping on the harder compounds especially at tracks where the delta is smaller and where traffic prevents most drivers from making use of the softs at the start of the race.

        1. Although I admire the logic this isn’t entirely true. If you are on a one stop strategy it doesn’t guarantee a good result if the front runners are in contention. This season Ferrari tried to go on hard tires on many occasions to cut through the field with one pit stop with both drivers. They simply either lacked pace or couldn’t finish the race without stopping again. Effectively also Bottas was on one pit stop strategy when they put his hard tires back on, he lost a lot of pace towards the end of the race as we saw. I feel like you can’t simplify strategies like that. The calls depend on the position and the occasion of the car. A pre determined strategy before the race like a one stopper doesn’t guarantee neither podium nor points.

          1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            7th December 2020, 17:05

            Yeah, the one stop strategy doesn’t always work but when it does, you do find yourself on the podium:-)

            I think Checo has used it to the absolute best throughout his career. It’s not going to yield 100 podiums in 200 races but a driver can probably get a handful especially if the driver can nurse the tires as well as Checo does.

        2. @freelittlebirds I can think of 2 reasons why McLaren and Renault (and AlphaTauri, with Kvyat and Gasly) decided on a two stop.
          1. They made Q3 and started on the softs.
          2. Unlike Stroll and Racing Point, their Friday simulations showed they wouldn’t have been able to make the softs last for more than ~20-25 racing laps. Perez alluded to as much when he said pre-race he was completely sure about which strategy they were going to take (one-stop) whereas the others were far more unsure.

          Given the dusty, windy conditions in which the race was held, it’s entirely feasible to think why a 2-stopper might have been the way to go. With wear being a greater factor than thermal degradation in these cool conditions under the Bahrain night sky, drivers were being asked to lean into their tyres more to keep temperature in them, to avoid the risk of cold tyres locking up due to erratic tailwinds, especially at turn 4.

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