Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Paul Ricard, 2022

2022 F1 driver rankings #8: Esteban Ocon

2022 F1 driver rankings

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Esteban Ocon’s 2021 season was crucial in his effort to establish himself as a long-term prospect for Alpine.

Yes, his new team mate Fernando Alonso was now in his forties, but he was still Fernando Alonso. Despite facing the most formidable team mate of his career, Ocon gave as much as he got against the double world champion, seizing the opportunity to take a breakthrough victory in Hungary with a mature, confident drive.

Heading into 2022, Ocon now had to maintain that level he had risen to over the previous season. And looking back over his 12 month’s worth of work this year, it’s fair to say he did just that.

His season didn’t get off to the tidiest of starts. He just missed out on Q3 in Bahrain by less than a tenth of a second, then he bumped into Mick Schumacher on the opening race lap of the season, copping one of the earliest penalties any driver has picked up at the start of a season. He shrugged off the impediment to catch and pass team mate Alonso multiple times during the race, eventually crossing the line in seventh place to kick off his season with six very useful points.

Esteban Ocon, Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2022
Ocon rudely rebuffed team mate Alonso in Jeddah
Ocon’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend was effectively a statement of intent for the rest of his season. He did a brilliant job on Saturday to line up ‘best of the rest’ in fifth place on the grid before beating Lando Norris in a late race battle to secure sixth at the finish. However, on the way, he had raised the eyebrows of team mate Alonso by aggressively defending from him as the pair battled in the early laps. While Ocon shrugged it off as just racing, it would not the only time his moves caused tension in the Alpine garage.

After making it three points finishes from three in Melbourne, Ocon’s Imola weekend was heavily compromised by a gearbox problem in qualifying. But the next weekend in Miami saw his first major error of the season, missing qualifying entirely after a thumping 51G crash into a wall in third practice. With a very long opening stint on hard tyres, Ocon made the most of a late Safety Car to eventually taking eighth place with the benefit of a penalty for Alonso.

Another strong drive in Spain earned him six more points in seventh, but he showed flashes of his aggressive side again in Monaco by squeezing Lewis Hamilton into the barrier on the run to Sainte Devote, earning a penalty that would deny him his sixth points finish in seven races. He was slower than Alonso in Baku and had to watch his team mate storm to a front row start in Montreal while he took seventh in the wet conditions. But in the race Ocon kept out of trouble to secure yet another healthy haul of points in sixth.

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Unreliability was a problem for both Alpine drivers and Ocon suffered his first retirement of the season at Silverstone. At the Red Bull Ring, he maximised his opportunities, taking fifth on the grid in Friday qualifying and only losing one position in the sprint race to a recovering Perez. The next day, he gained back the position he’d lost on Saturday, securing his best result of the season to date.

Ocon’s tally of 52 points at this stage was almost double that of Alonso. But that gap narrowed as Ocon finished behind Alonso over the following three rounds. Ocon clumsily bashed into Yuki Tsunoda in Paul Ricard, earning his second opening-lap penalty of the season, then earned more ire from Alonso in Hungary when he claimed Ocon had dangerously blocked him not once, but twice at the start.

This three-way pass helped Ocon to seventh at Spa
Spa was one of Ocon’s best weekends of the year. Quicker than Alonso in every session, his fifth in qualifying became 16th after he, along with around half the field, took grid penalties for exceeding their power unit allowance. Ocon skilfully climbed the field in the race, overtaking several rivals and even multiple cars in the same corner in one instance. Finishing 2.4 seconds behind Alonso in seventh having started 13 places further down the order was a result to be rightly proud of.

Alpine were hunting McLaren for fourth place in the constructors’ championship, but realistically this was effectively two Alpines versus Norris’ McLaren. After just missing out of the top ten in Monza following another power unit grid penalty, Ocon’s new motor expired prematurely in Singapore. He left Asia in better spirits however, having out-qualified both Mercedes in Suzuka and then holding off Hamilton to take his season-best finish of fourth.

After an average weekend in Austin, Ocon rounded out the season with a solid run of results. But not without having a third and final flare-up with Alonso along the way in Interlagos, and his car catching fire in parc ferme. With the team’s fourth place virtually assured, Ocon signed off his season by beating Alonso comprehensively in their final race together as team ‘mates’, equalling his best ever championship finish in eighth.

Through a 22-race season, Ocon had been the definition of solid – consistently grabbing points, occasionally putting in truly impressive performances and avoiding any genuinely poor weekends. But as Alpine look to the future with an all-French line up of Ocon and Pierre Gasly, they will hope for more harmonious relations between their drivers in 2023.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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19 comments on “2022 F1 driver rankings #8: Esteban Ocon”

  1. I think he’s been greatly flattered in these ratings. I wouldn’t rate his performance over the season, which was most of the time just being slightly under the ultimate pace of the car, and then looking slower than his teammate in at least 15 to 17 of the race weekends.

    I thought Bottas, Albon and (arguably) Magnussen looked better than him throughout the season. I would rate him around #12 or #13 this season.

    1. “I thought Bottas, Albon and (arguably) Magnussen looked better”

      I don’t know how.

      1. Albon dragged the slowest car on the grid into the points, Bottas singlehandedly scored nearly all Alfa’s points when the car was capable of doing so and Magnussen not only took a pole but also scored the majority of his team’s points. Arguably all three drivers outdrove the machinery they had while Ocon… did not.

        1. Albon dragged the slowest car on the grid into the points,

          Albon was replaced on one race by a total rookie who was given a few hours notice that he was racing, put in a good quali lap and claimed a points total in the race that equalled the highest points score of Albon. This from a driver that had to ask what certain buttons on the steering wheel did during the race

          Either De Vries is a superstar driver, or Albon is over-hyped. Take your pick.

          I’m not going to argue Ocon was particularly good though.

          1. De vries should be a superstar indeed, and albon is a decent driver, he’s been for all of his career, except when he got promoted to red bull.

          2. This is hilarious. Russell had the same benchmark in Latifi😂
            And Albon beat him by a bigger margin.

        2. @rocketpanda Yes he did, and fair play to him for those races in Miami and Australia in particular. The Williams was quite good at some other tracks, like Spa and Monza (where De Vries scored on his debut in Albon’s car). Still, Albon’s season had some less impressive races as well.

          Ocon is perhaps one of the most inconspicuous drivers around, but he put in the work, finished his races, scored points and while he’s rightly ranked below his better (even at 41) teammate, he helped make sure Alpine finished ahead of the arguably faster McLaren-Mercedes in the championship. It was a mostly solid, if not spectacular, job by the Frenchman.

      2. @proesterchen

        Because they all had races where they punched above the cars weight. Bottas had some mega races at the start of the season. Albon got points finishes in the slowest car on the grid.. and even Magnussen had a few high placed finishes along with a pole position in Brazil.

        What did Ocon do exactly? Finish P5 in Saudi Arabia. He should have finished there .. it was the default position for him to finish in given the pace of the car and retirements. Hi highest quality position was 5th on the grid, when his teammate looked like he could have even taken pole position at Canada?

        He was unspectacular.. and was so lucky with his teammate’s bad luck.. or he would have finished 50 points behind him.

        1. Absolutely, if we corrected for bad luck he’d get a massive beating from alonso; still, given what the team mate battles article said, I’m positively surprised to see they at least ranked alonso ahead.

    2. 100% @todfod. I think we’ve both had a fairly close eye on Ocon this year and I think he should be further down this list.

      Very few standouts – Japan and Austria were good but Alonso was out in the sprint in Austria and Japan he was rewarded for nailing the q3 lap.

      Alonso got the car into q3 18 times to Ocon’s 11 would really worry me if I was him.

      If Ocon is rated this highly because he was close to a team-mate having a great season some days, why is that not the same for Perez?

      1. Guessing points (as in reliability) made the difference, this allowed ocon to look closer to alonso than perez was to verstappen, in red bull reliability was fair.

    3. The AR was a good car early, but only early. Bottas always burns out. Albon is pleasant, but not a battler. Kmag’s had a pole which was pure luck and he dropped like a stop after the racing started. None had a team mate of any merit.

      All six should be ranked lower than Ocon for 2022. Ocon the Max beater :-)

      1. I could say that Bottas at least had a peak before he burnt out… Albon at least got in the battle with a Williams and Kmag still had a pole position that wasnt entirely lucky, especially considering his teammate was last with the same machinery.

        What exactly did Ocon do all year? He didn’t have highs like Bottas.. he didn’t punch above the cars weight like Albon.. and he didn’t qualify on the top row as compared to Kmag and Alonso.

        It was the most bland season by a driver ever, disguised by his teammates DNFs, which flattered his performance.

  2. Agree with that (although this year the whole midfield was quite close with little difference between #8 and #13).

  3. Hmm. In this case the remaining rankings should be as follows:

    1) Verstappen
    2) Leclerc
    3) Alonso
    4) Norris
    5) Vettel
    6) Russell
    7) Hamilton

    Mercedes were super dissapointing. Vettel had a solid final year in f1. Norris dominated his teamate again. Alonso shows he is still ne of the very best despite reliability, third is only fair is Ocon is eighth. Leclerc was the only real challenger to the title and finished runner up ahead of Perez. Nobody else can be number 1 besides the record breaking, Hamilton shaming Max Verstappen.

    1. Leclerc made too many errors to be second.

  4. Can’t see Ocon in the top 15. Seb neither

  5. He drove better than Alonso this year; why is he ranked lower?

    1. Eh? Got more points due to Alonso having the worst luck, but in no way did Ocon out drive Alonso

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