“You’d need to kill me” before I withdraw from a race – Ocon

Formula 1

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Esteban Ocon said he would never voluntarily withdraw from a race however bad he felt, after vomiting in his car on his way to seventh place in the Qatar Grand Prix.

The Alpine driver did not tell his team how ill he had been during the race until after he took the chequered flag. Many drivers suffered with the hot and humid conditions last weekend.

“That was the hardest-fought points that I’ve ever had to fight for,” said Ocon. “I was feeling ill on lap 15, 16, I was throwing up for two laps inside the cockpit. Then I was like, ‘shit, that’s going to be a long race’.”

He was running in 13th place at that point, having just made his first pit stop. Ocon said he had to “calm down” afterwards and refocus on his race.

“I tried to remember that the mental side in sport is the strongest part of your body and I managed to get that under control and finish the race. But, honestly I was not expecting for the race to be that hard.

“I can normally do two race distances, even in Singapore. Physically like muscle-wise and cardio-wise I’m always fine but I don’t know it was just like 80 degrees inside the cockpit this race. I don’t think we probably do the best job in terms of not keeping the heat in the back, dissipating it inside the cockpit where the driver drives and I think that was the reason probably today where we felt so bad.

“But glad that we finished the race, a hard one, well deserved, the maximum that we could have done and got a happy ending.”

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Many drivers suffered in the gruelling conditions at Losail International Circuit. Logan Sargeant, who was ill before the race began, pulled out after 40 of the 57 laps as he suffered with dehydration.

Ocon said the severity of the condition went well beyond what he has experienced in previous races.

“I never felt something like that, it was so hot that I wanted to open the visor on the straight-line because I had no air,” he added.

“I was trying to also guide with my hands some air into the helmet because I couldn’t. The more I was breathing to try and get everything lower, the more heat was coming inside the helmet and honestly it was hell in there.”

However he said he was not prepared to stop his car however bad he felt. “It’s not an option, retiring,” said Ocon. “I was never going to do that. You need to kill me to retire.”

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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...
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50 comments on ““You’d need to kill me” before I withdraw from a race – Ocon”

  1. heh. not a fan of this kind of macho proclamations. If you are about to pass out, as Sargeant clearly was, you become dangerous for others as well. You pass out on a straight before a chicane, don’t brake and you torpedo the car in front of you. Hell, even Lauda retired, so if he himself did, there’s no praise in saying that one wouldn’t.

    1. Seems an unnecessary punch at Sargeant for whatever reason.

    2. +1 … Maybe in his mind he is a N° 1 driver, but in all reality he is closer to be a number 2 (no pun intended)

      Alpine had a big challenge trying managing him and Alonso when they were teammates

    3. I may have remembered it wrong, but when Massa had his big accident, a box spring hit his helmet at high speed, causing him to lose consciousness, which meant that the car continued on its straight line all the way to the barriers. Luckily, he didn’t hit anyone and equally luckily, the crash injuries were fairly monor compared to the head and eye damage from the spring impact, but it is an example of the dangers of a driver blacking out.

      1. Yes Ocon is a bit extreme with his proclamation there

    4. Lauda retiring from the Japanese Grand Prix was a bit of a messed up scheme, though. I forget who it was, probably Daniele Audetto on the Beyond the Grid podcast from 2021, told the story somewhat like this; before the race the lead drivers had come together to basically say the conditions were undrivable. Ecclestone made a big fuss about it, saying the commercial rights they were selling to broadcasters forced them to race, so an agreement was made that they would start the race but then retire. James Hunt, upon coming back to McLaren, was basically told they would nuke his career if he ever did anything of the sort, so he kept going while Lauda brought his car in.

    5. Yeah, we need to protect athletes from this mindset, from themselves.

      1. correct, we need drones driving those cars, people without any sense of self interest. Basically robots, so that everyone who watches is enamored and idolizes these robots and want to be robots themselves. These drones should do what they are told, not argue for their own cause, and never violate team orders. Ever.

        1. lol and all these fans can’t argue against you either because it’s safer for the drivers this way. And, if they don’t agree with that or red flags for what used to not even be extreme conditions, they are uncaring, backward monsters.

          While, I didn’t like the statement, I don’t dislike a tough mindset. However, real tough guys usually don’t have to talk about how tough they are.

      2. @bascb Stop trying to babysit other people and regulate everything, and patronize everyone. Esteban is a grown man who has come from a tough background unlike most of the rich guys and he’s obviously tough as nails. With your attitude we would have never accomplished anything as a species and would’ve ended up an extinct footnote in Earth’s evolutionary history. This attitude of let’s protect everyone from themselves (who gets to decide that, you? What kind of a twisted dictatorship is that?) is what’s causing lots of problems in today’s Western World. You want to be soft and sissy fine that’s your choice. But don’t try to force it on everyone else.

    6. I’ll add the seemingly 25th +1 to your comment. While I hate how soft F1, the drivers, fans, etc. have become, this is not a helpful statement for so many reasons.

  2. Lovely choice of words.
    Well I’d rather have a driver with the aptitude to know when to call it a day, than one who’s willing to put everyone else on track at risk.

  3. What is he trying to prove? there’s nothing wrong about retiring if you don’t feel well enough.

  4. I want to believe that this comes from Ocon’s background and how hard he fought for being there. Not the smartest declaration of course, but I can understand this from him.

    1. @m-bagattini

      Maybe he should use his drive from ‘how hard he fought to being there’ in actually getting some on-track results instead of his usual off-track banter.

      1. Well, he’s the only one of 3 drivers so far who managed to get a 9 (monaco this year) in the really harsh driver ranking we have, along with verstappen and sainz!

      2. 7th place is a decent on-track result.

    2. Let’s be honest, we know he’d surrender to the first Marko coming across the border.

      For those with zero sense of humor, BTW. That was a joke.

  5. Maybe Esteban watches a lot of Steven Seagal movies !

  6. Thats not a very suitable mindset for an F1 driver, he´d rather risk hurting someone seriously in a crash rather than retiring one of what feels like hundreds of races during a season.

  7. And this is why you should never listen to drivers who say they are fine to drive despite health and safety concerns.
    Where was the FIA medical delegate? Why didn’t they put a stop to this? There has to be a grown-up to prevent drivers from hurting themselves or others through this sort of display of ignorant machismo.

    1. Agree, and agree again with those two excellent points Leroy.

    2. What some people call “ignorant machismo”; others call may call perseverance, or competitiveness.

      This is why FIA had to limit how many laps a set of tyres may do, teams and drivers will push the limits in order to win, no matter what. They just need to learn from this tire farce now and not repeat it again, make it possible for true competition to take place.

      Who are we kidding, though, F1 is under American ownership now. This race gave them Yanks sum ideas. fr! fr!
      The yanks will no doubt be introducing lap limits for each tyre level. Soft = 12laps, Medium = 15laps, Hard = 23laps. Actual rubber compound between all tyre types: identical.

      1. Suffering from heat exhaustion and/or heatstroke is a serious medical issue and needs to be treated as such. It is not perseverance or competitiveness when your body reaches that point as it did for many of the drivers. Stop acting like this is about toughness. It’s a medical issue that should have been treated as such.

  8. A bunch of wimpy wimps here in the comment section. We need more drivers with Ocon’s mindset! Safety-first librarians can go work in a library. Motorsport needs action and drama!

    1. Even if one puts zero value on safety, and would be a fan of bringing back the Coliseum and gladiators, or I guess closer to the mark, the Circus Maximus, it is not logical in today’s world to not try to prevent deaths. Even before the current era, some nations have prohibited motorcar racing when enough people got killed. From this POV, safety is necessary to not have the whole thing just shut down by legalities, purely as a business decision.

    2. Asd, action and drama? It is a mistake to think a bit of sunshine never hurt anyone and real men don’t give up. Heatstroke is lethal, even for highly trained athletes and elite soldiers. It isn’t a case of people manning up and working through it. When people are suffering from heatstroke, they become disoriented, confused, much the same as being drunk. We wouldn’t allow drunks to drive an F1 car, no matter how macho they might be, so we shouldn’t allow drivers suffering from heatstroke either. As the heatstroke gets worse, the victim can suddenly lose conciousness, or have a seizure, or cardiac arrest. That’s not the sort of action and drama I want to see, and if you think that’s a price drivers should be willing to pay for our entertainment, you need to take a long hard look at yourself.

      1. The drivers aren’t in F1 for ‘our’ entertainment, though. They are in F1 for their own reasons.

    3. The problem is that Ocon is not doing a time trial. If he was an Olympic snowboarder doing fancy stunts on a half pipe; go ahead, do something silly.

      But as AlanD noted above, if a driver blacks out his car doesn’t automatically park along the road nice and safely. It just goes on at great speed on a track with other participants.

    4. I agree that most fans, including here now demand safety standards that quite literally make F1 safer than a routine drive to work (Bianchi has been the only death in the last 30 years and you can be sure more people in a group of 50 will likely have died or been seriously injured in a traffic accident over that time) and has pretty much ruined the show with automatic SCs for any car dead on the side of the track no matter how safely pulled off, but his comment basically encouraged drivers losing consciousness to keep driving. Not smart.

    5. Absolutely agree. These conditions were extreme, but Ocon is saying he’s willing to put everything into finishing the race and trying to get a good result. It’s not like he’s talking literally. He’s talking about mental strength.

      You have to respect that he’s willing to compete regardless of the conditions. If the FIA deems the conditions are too risky and they want to stop the race then fine, thats a decision they take (that potentially saves the drivers from themselves).. but if the race is happening, he’s racing. Thats fair enough if you ask me.

  9. What ‘bravado’ displayed by Ocon in this statement. From these statements, you’d think he has a mindset of a driver with a legacy of Hamilton, Verstappen and Alonso combined. In reality, he’s just a mediocre driver who gets beaten by every teammate he’s paired up against, and he vents his insecurities by taking cheap shots at other drivers on the grid.

    Logan was right to retire, as there’s no point in continuing if you’re about to faint in a cockpit. You can still live to race another day.

    1. For sargeant though, it was an easy decision, there was no chance of points whatsoever, it’s different if you’re in the points like ocon.

    2. And Logan had the flu unlike him or any of the other drivers, which makes it a doubly cheap shot. I doubt he’d have kept driving if he throwing up in his helmet even without the flu.

  10. Soo, drive to survive?

  11. Any driver in Sargeant’s condition would retire, either voluntarily or involuntarily a few corners later into a wall. In the onboard it is very clear that once he makes the decision to retire, the poor guy goes weaving around the track and can barely grab the steering wheel. In fact, what is worrying for me is that his track engineer did not tell him to abandon the car at any runoff zone because getting to the pits like that was very dangerous. Luckily nothing happened.

    That said, I don’t think the conditions of Ocon, Russell or others were even similar to Sargeant’s. They looked tired, yes, but it is a sport, and I don’t think is bad they get tired from time to time. Let’s say that getting tired is part of your salary, crashing into a wall because you faint while driving being ill is not.

    1. Logan is weak, thats why he retired. His mentality is weak, and it appears his physical conditioning is not up to what it needs to be to race in hotter climates. This is the difference between an athlete and an amateur, one will push themselves to mee the requirements of their profession, another one is just taking in the leisure. Now if the dude has heart issues, or circulation issues, he should probably retire, but if hes capable, he has to do a better job understanding himself, and his direction.

      1. harsh vardhan harsh vardhan
        11th October 2023, 7:39

        Dude he is just powdering his boss don’t you see that

  12. No need to kill you, with that attitude you may end up killing yourself. I hope you’re not serious. After all, driving like that you may end up hurting someone else…

  13. I believe Esteban, but this is why more stringent safety restrictions are needed. It should have been possible for Race Control to see that conditions were unsuitable wave the needed mid-race red flag, even without any recourse to new tech or regulations.

  14. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    10th October 2023, 21:39

    Warrior spirit. Love it!

  15. Agree. This F1 drivers are athletes stuff is sheer bs. Sure they pull a few G’s & hack big necks but it’s nothing vs the intense training & matches/games other sports stars do. I recall Lewis doing a 5 a side charity thing with old ex players for sky like 10 years ago & he couldn’t breath like 10 mins into the game. Risk of injury, ending of career & heck even death is much lower in F1. We never used to scream ATHLETES til Liberty came around & along with a million other things hyped it to sell the sport. Mega moment of weakness from Logan Sargaent. Push all the PR crap you like but he’s so far out of his depth.

    1. but it’s nothing vs the intense training & matches/games other sports stars do

      Equally, I’ll bet if you put a pro soccer player in an F1 car, they’d be struggling to cope with the forces involved after ten minutes. At racing speeds, there is so much force on the chest that most people will find it difficult to breath, and drivers have to learn to control their breathing under such extreme conditions. Different sports use different muscle groups, some require more long-term stamina, others brute strength. If they all needed the same fitness combinations, then you’d get Olympic athletes doing the hundred meter sprint, the marathon, and weightlifting.

      There was a time when F1 drivers were not especially fit. James Hunt’s training regime was a bottle of champagne and a packet of Marlboros. That changed. Senna was the first driver to hire a personal trainer and would run 15km every day. Schumacher was a fitness fanatic and would spend six hours a day in the gym. Jenson Button entered the Filipines Iron Man Triathalon and finished 11th out of over 1500 competitors.

      1. If they all needed the same fitness combinations, then you’d get Olympic athletes doing the hundred meter sprint, the marathon, and weightlifting.

        This was nicely illustrated a few months ago when Belgian shot put and hammer throw champion Jolien Boumkwo substituted for her teammate at… the hurdles?! It was quite a sight, and she obviously finished last, but by setting a time she kept Belgium in the competition.

        1. The hurdles???? Brilliant. The hurdles is one of the worst events to try to do anyway, it is so techinical, and the shot putter isn’t exactly built for sprinting. Fair play to her though for putting the team first.

  16. Somehow, I am more impressed with Sargeant than Ocon after all was said and done this week. Certainly, Logan Sargeant has a more mature attitude to those around him. Ocon’s bravado seems a bit hollow, if not slightly pathetic.

    1. Are you 100% sure you picked the right pic for your avatar?
      Just kidding. :)

      I just can’t see Gilles giving up, like, ever.

  17. These kinds of statements from Ocon are well fit in front of your manager in Corp environment
    Especially during year-end annual reviews, where you powder the back

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