Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023

“Very rare” operational errors led to Ocon’s trio of penalties – Szafnauer

2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer says the errors that led to Esteban Ocon getting three penalties during the Bahrain Grand Prix will not happen again.

Ocon’s first offence was committed before the race began, as the stewards ruled he lined up in an “inaccurate start position” on the grid. He was given a five-second time penalty to serve during a pit stop.

However his was not stationary for a full five seconds before mechanics touched his car. The stewards found work began on the Alpine four-tenths of a second too soon, invalidating the penalty, and so he was penalised a further ten seconds.

“That was just a timing issue,” Szafnauer explained. “We have a system that counts down into the mechanics’ ears to tell them when they can start and that was offset by four tenths of a second. So then it kind of just spiralled out of control.”

Race start, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
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“We should just put an offset in it so it starts the countdown a half-second late,” Szafnauer reflected. “A half-second isn’t going to kill us.”

The second offence required another trip to the pits, during which Ocon exceeded the 80kph pit lane speed limit by 0.1kph, and so copped another five-second penalty. Szafnauer confirmed Ocon deactivated his pit lane speed limiter half a metre too early on his way out of the pits.

“Anyway, all operational errors, we shouldn’t make them, not at this level. We’ll have an introspective view on them and not make them again.”

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The trio of errors came as a surprise to Szafnauer. “It was very, very rare for this team to make those types of operational mistakes,” he said.

“Starting early on working on the car, I’ve never seen it happen here before. We have good systems in place for that not to happen. So I’m confident that won’t happen again.

“Esteban being out of position at the start, he’ll learn from that and it will never happen again. So I think operationally, we can look forward to having smooth, trouble-free races.”

While Ocon retired after starting in the top 10, team mate Pierre Gasly climbed into the points having started last. Szafnauer expects better results from Alpine if the team avoids similar errors in future “and Pierre qualifies where he can qualify.”

“[If] we’ve got both of them in the top ten positions, which is what we want, I think we’ll score plenty of points and then we’ll fight.”

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2023 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
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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6 comments on ““Very rare” operational errors led to Ocon’s trio of penalties – Szafnauer”

  1. They were rare, perhaps, but then you had three in a race and now they’re very much common.

    1. @sjaakfoo To be fair, by the end of the race it was becoming somewhat comical. He was probably a lap down just on them being silly trying to shave off a tenth numerous times.

      Other than the actual bad ones (accidents and the like), I think he might have had the worst race that I can remember for sometime. And all for the daftest reasons.

      Not being able to park a car, touch one or turn something off.

    2. @sjaakfoo Very rare when 5+5=15

  2. Gasly great race (after a poor qualifying) kind of saved face for Alpine that looked again to be at “heir best” of “one step forward, tow steps back” that they got us used to for the last decade.
    But fair point that 2 errors were driver errors, and Ocon just shoot himself in the foot.

    Season is long, the car does seem to have potential to be closer to Mercedes than last year (for now at least), unfortunately for Alpine, Aston Martin is ahead and the rest of midfield (even maybe McLaren that looked to have good race pace, if we forget about their technical issues) is much closer.
    Still plenty of opportunities for team errors (I don’t think Otmar is a good team principal) + driver errors (someone pointed out in another article that Ocon rarely admits his mistakes and it sure seems to be the case, so he’ll continue to make more).
    And we are due for a falling out of the drivers at some point, as they have a bad blood between them (that was personal, if I recall correctly)…

    Although frustrating for me (I would love to see Team Enstone battling again at the front) it will be interesting.

  3. No, YOU are an operational error.

  4. Heads will roll in Saudi
    (regardless of whether Alpine take any action!)

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