Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Hungaroring, 2021

Ocon’s “beautiful” late-stint pace was other key to Alpine’s breakthrough win

2021 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Fernando Alonso was praised for his spectacular, 10-lap defence from Lewis Hamilton which helped his team mate Esteban Ocon claim a shock debut victory in Hungary.

But Alpine’s sporting director Alan Permane said Ocon’s pace prior to his final pit stop was the other key to victory as it ensured the team was able to cover off the threat from Sebastian Vettel behind him.

Permane said it wasn’t until Ocon emerged from the pits ahead of Vettel following his final tyre change that they believed a win was possible.

“The first part of the race was making sure we came out on the second set of tyres in the lead,” said Permane. “And then from there the win was on.”

Vettel was within DRS range of Ocon for much of their first stint on slicks. But from lap 23 Ocon began to draw clear, and by lap 36 his lead was up to 2.6 seconds. That helped protect him from the threat of Vettel pitting first to get onto fresher tyres and passing via the ‘undercut’.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Hungaroring, 2021
Ocon built a gap over Vettel when he needed it
Ocon’s pace at this stage in the race was critical, said Permane. “What was really beautiful was that when we let him go, when we told him ‘okay, now you need to drive flat-out’ he pulled two and a half, I don’t know what it was, on Sebastian, two point eight seconds or something.

“That enabled us to just react to Sebastian. So we didn’t have to do anything until he pitted. We pitted a lap after, we came out in front of him.”

The gap Ocon built up made life easier for the team’s strategists, Permane explained. “[If] you pit first, you expose yourself to Safety Cars and all sorts of nastiness. There was two key things, there was that, and of course Fernando with Lewis.”

Permane said Alonso’s ability to withstand the pressure from Hamilton for lap after lap was “undoubtedly crucial” in securing the victory, given how quickly Hamilton caught Ocon and Vettel after passing Alonso and Carlos Sainz Jnr.

Alonso thrillingly resisted Hamilton
“If he’d got past in the first lap like he got past Carlos on the first time past, I’m sure Lewis would have been there [at the end].”

Alpine would have had to employ defensive strategies with Ocon had Hamilton passed Alonso sooner, said Permane.

“I think what we would have done is then just drop back a bit, gave Seb the DRS and use that to protect a little bit. But I don’t know if we would have held him off.

“Maybe. Esteban, don’t forget he [was] one of the last people [to pit], so he had very fresh tyres. He was in control in that last stint.”

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Ocon’s radio messages prior to his last pit stop

PeckettVettel 1.5, 1.5.
OconWe are gapping Vettel?
PeckettVettel 1.5 behind. Tyre management good.
OconAre we expecting more rain?
PeckettNo.
PeckettOkay mate status zero, Vettel 1.7 behind. Status zero.
PeckettGap to Vettel still 1.6, good job.
PeckettGap to Vettel two seconds. Just keep it up.
PeckettBalance has now stabilised.
PeckettVettel 2.1 behind.
PeckettOkay let’s introduce a little bit of lift-and-coast, please, half a second.
PeckettVettel, 2.3 behind let’s go for one second lift-and-coast please from the next lap.
PeckettOkay Vettel’s 2.3 we want to keep that up. Lift and coast last lap was good.
OconWe are braking into turn three slightly worse
OconOkay copy that.
PeckettPU 13 position two, this will slightly increase clipping, all’s okay.
PeckettReduce lift-and-coast to half a second a lap.
OconOkay Esteban halfway, halfway.
OconLet’s keep this half-second lift-and-coast, that’s good, Vettel 2.2 behind.
PeckettOkay Esteban 2.6 gap to Vettel. Think about balance adjust for plan A please.
OconWe can probably reduce a tiny amount.
OconYou can still feel turn 11.
PeckettOkay you can come down on diff high speed. We’re still in 12.
OconI don’t want to, no?
OconThe car’s…
PeckettInterrupts
Okay max push, max push, max push.
PeckettBox this lap Esteban, box box.
OconConfirm.
PeckettAwesome. Out-lap critical.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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15 comments on “Ocon’s “beautiful” late-stint pace was other key to Alpine’s breakthrough win”

  1. Alonso’s pace between 40 and 50 laps is very promising for Alpine

    1. Alonso’s pace was better than what Ocon managed to do in the second stint because he was the driver who pushed his first stint the longest, and it played a fundamental piece on Alpine’s full strategy (otherwise not even him could resist the 1# Mercedes that long) as much as Ocon’s strong pace before pitting like it was explained in this article. Those two guys made a phenomenal work together in this race. McLaren has the better line-up on paper this season but I’m starting to believe that Alpine is the team with the best pair of drivers combining their strengths as a matter of fact. It would be Mercedes or Red Bull if not for Perez and Bottas performing so poorly pretty often, and actually Ferrari are the real contenders against Alpine on that measure with a brilliant but erratic Leclerc and a more solid if not unspectacular Sainz.

      1. I think bottas performed exactly as well as it was expected and I really disagree mercedes would have the best line-up on paper; red bull would be superior since perez should be superior to bottas, but ofc he disappointed this year.

        1. @esploratore1

          I think bottas performed exactly as well as it was expected and I really disagree mercedes would have the best line-up on paper; red bull would be superior since perez should be superior to bottas, but ofc he disappointed this year.

          Yeah, I mentioned Mercedes line-up just because of the hype some put on them (which I don’t buy at all), mostly British media driven naturally. They tend to see Bottas in a more rosy way, but it’s difficult for them to hide that part of it is because he plays favourably to Hamilton’s interest, especially in keeping Russell aside for as long as possible. But fact is Bottas’ best year at Mercedes was his first (2017) and his worst year is happening now (2021), so he’s in a clearly downwards route.
          As for Perez, Max fans usually insist that he is, or at least used to be, way better than Bottas who’s finished, whilst many Lewis fans do make a twisting effort to assert that Perez always had been a terrible driver, with Bottas being a solid number two. Honestly, I’m sure that their dope moments this season roughly cancel each other’s out in the top teams second fiddle contest. In both their careers before going to a top team they were respectable midfield runners with some flashes of brilliance, consistently scoring more points or about as much as their average good or weaker teammates and nothing too much spectacular overall to show.
          Notably Perez spent much more time in the midfield especially with Force India/Racing Point, and his abilities of tyre worshiper started to get noticed during this long stint. I think Hamilton, as a great driver that he is regardless of his shenanigans, made Bottas look somewhat badly all those years, as much as Perez is looking so fragile against Verstappen now in the eyes of many (granted, he’s new to Red Bull, but his odds against Max don’t seem quite promising).
          Bottas can still be a solid lower midfield runner if he goes back to Williams, in my opinion. But to do that he’d need to become a little more gritty than the numbness of a driver that he has been lately, only up to scratch in qualifying and flattered by a fast Mercedes to an unacceptable degree in races, with a car that usually prevents him from having to fight hard in a race and whenever he needs to, he can’t pull it out quickly enough. For him to be found in his fifth year at a top team driving as weakly as a good-but-not-great driver who is facing the pressure to adapt to a new car reveals how much his form has taken a considerable dip. My guess is, even with a reluctant soon to become teammate, Russell probably will be promoted to Mercedes for next year, what is long-overdue.

  2. Wouldn’t it be cool if drivers had to feel and figure out how to drive that car by themselves again?

    Would lead to much more variability, risk and showcasing of real intuitive skill!

    1. @JustSomeone They need a certain amount of info because of how complex a modern F1 car is, so somewhat risky.

      1. In my opinion that is exactly the wrong way of thinking about this. It’s BECAUSE they have the telemetry and communication that they make the cars too complicated to drive – remove that, and we get better racing. This is also why MotoGP riders keep voting against such technology.

        (Listen to more onboards: VER was almost in the wrong engine mode at the portimao restart. HAM’s tires & brakes can be managed to within a degree. It’s not pure driving skill … What’s wrong with drivers having to feel their tires?)

  3. Very happy for Alpine the way they’ve struggled since Renault took over the wreck that was teh Lotus team. This will certainly secure their F1 future.

    Ocon was also very impressive, especially after how he struggled after his comeback. Seems he was right to ask for a new chassis, as he’s been on the pace again after the change.

    1. Not sure if it was the chassis or the psychological “luck potion” of the chassis change that helped him turning it round. But anyway it worked magnificently.

  4. Yeah its bizarre how Vettel and Sainz in faster cars were unable to threaten Ocon’s win. Sainz didn’t even bother trying at all. While Vettel had to use too much fuel to stay sort of close (without doing anything with staying close really).

    1. Sainz was held by Latifi like everyone in the remaining field except Ocon and Vettel. But after that he should have managed to come close a little sooner and put more pressure on the two drivers up front, so it was somewhat disappointing indeed.

  5. I mean, he was the slowest car in the top five. The circuit was just awful to overtake in.

    1. It’s a good thing imo to have a few hard tracks to overtake on, you know, with drs most passes nowadays are a joke, there’s no way we’d have had that interesting battle alonso vs hamilton on a standard track, I was expecting easier passes nowadays even in hungary.

  6. Bottas removing himself, Max, Checo and Lando was key to Alpine’s win. Not to mention his crash causing Hamilton to be in last place after the tyre changes.

    1. It was also key to williams’ first points after 2 years.

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