Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023

Four other drivers broke rules at start without penalty, claims Ocon

2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Esteban Ocon says he wasn’t the only driver who was out of position at the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix, despite being the only one to collect a penalty.

It triggered a frustrating start to the 2023 season for the Alpine driver, who amassed a total of three penalty before his race ended in an early retirement.

Ocon qualified ninth for the Bahrain Grand Prix, but landed himself in trouble when he took up his position on the grid. The stewards ruled he positioned his Alpine inaccurately – noting “part of the car’s right front tyre was outside of the starting box” – and handed Ocon a five-second time penalty.

He insisted other drivers had broken the same rule without being punished. “Four cars were also ahead,” said Ocon. “I was not the only one out of the line. I was the most forward, that’s clear, but not the only one.”

The rules required Ocon to take his penalty at the first opportunity, but when the team called him in for his first pit stop they failed to serve it. The stewards noted that “after 4.6 seconds a mechanic started working on the car” and handed Ocon a fresh, 10-second penalty.

Making matters worse, Ocon suffered damage to the left-hand side of his front wing end plate. He soon returned to the pits to have it replaced.

When Ocon returned to serve his final penalty, the team suffered another slip-up. This time Ocon broke the 80kph pit lane speed limit – by just 0.1kph – and he was duly handed another five-second time penalty.

“I don’t know where the speeding comes from,” Ocon said, explaining he’s performed “the release and the entry the same way since five years, never got a penalty.”

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2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Author information

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...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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7 comments on “Four other drivers broke rules at start without penalty, claims Ocon”

  1. He got that left-hand side front wing damage quite early on, so on that pit stop where the front wing change happened, one mechanic made the crucial error of touching prematurely like AT did with Gasly in one race last season or the season before, although I can’t recall which race for now.
    The speeding penalty must be about getting the pit limiter activation timing marginally wrong.
    Overall, a messy race for him that would’ve otherwise led to finishing in the points in all likelihood.

  2. Claiming that other drivers have breached the regulations does not exempt him from having the penalty.
    Exceding the limit by just 0.1 kph was to unfortunate to him, even when he didn’t break that in five ten or houndered years. If you broke the limet, you got the penalty. Simple as that.
    What I think is harsh is to gave him 10 seconds for not serve the full 5 seconds penalty. I think that in those cases, the FIA you gave him another 5 sec, like he never served the fisrt penlaty. That was a team error, derived from a pilot error at the start.

  3. Dear Ocon, you were miles outside your box we could even see that with our eyes at the start (from the front) but drawing a line from the first to the last car it was very clear.

  4. Esteban has no one but himself to blame for these errors… Ok maybe he can blame one over eager pit crew member. Find it hilarious that Gasly managed to get in to the points despite starting last, and Ocon repeatedly shot himself in the foot all race long. I think Alpine is actually competitive enough to take the fight to Mercedes on some occasions, but definitely not in the hands of Ocon.

  5. I would suggest the fact the other drivers weren’t penlised means they didn’t break the rules, perhaps Ocon should provide conclusive evidence for his claims or shut up. He looked ridiculous throughout out that race., I bet Gasly had a great night watching that race back.

  6. It does amaze me that teams don’t have a stricter process for making sure they observe the penalty. I know they don’t want to waste any time but it’s a false economy if you’re too eager to save a couple of tenths then get hit with another 5 seconds or more plus all the time it costs to pit again should you be forced to do so.

    1. @davidhunter13 Yeah I’m always a little surprised to see the teams just seem to do it with a stopwatch. I guess it doesn’t happen often enough to bother investing in anything more accurate. If I was the one holding the stopwatch I’d go with 5.5 seconds, just incase what the FIA believes the car came to a standstill doesn’t match up with when your eyes told you it did.

      Like you say, the penalty for shaving a tenth off isn’t worth the penalty that comes if you miss time it. I think Ted Kravitz said the Alpine member who touch the car did so after 4.7 seconds.

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