Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Monaco, 2023

2023 Formula 1 driver rankings #11: Esteban Ocon

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In a season where competition between the teams behind Max Verstappen was perhaps as intense as it has ever been, trying to pick between the various drivers of the top six teams becomes almost an impossibility.

But someone has to miss out on a top 10 slot. And this year, that driver is Esteban Ocon.

As a race winning driver, Ocon has already demonstrated his potential for what he is capable of when things go his way. In his second and final season alongside world champion Fernando Alonso, Ocon even managed to come out ahead in the points standings, although it required quite a bit of bad luck on the part of his veteran team mate.

With Alonso’s dramatic departure to Aston Martin, Ocon was joined by a new team mate for 2023 – none other than his long-time rival Pierre Gasly. The intra-team contest between the two highly talented, highly competitive French drivers in the sole French-owned team on the grid was one of the most intriguing storylines heading into the year.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2023
After Bahrain frustration, Ocon rebounded in Jeddah
Over the course of the season, Ocon only narrowly lost that battle to his new team mate in the championship. But he had put in a solid season’s work over the year that he could be satisfied with, if maybe not one of the most outstanding performers.

His season got off to a calamitous start in Bahrain. Despite successfully reaching Q3 at the first time of asking – when Gasly could not even manage to reach Q2 – Ocon was hit with a penalty for starting in an incorrect position on the grid, then got a second penalty after a team infringement serving the first, before getting yet another penalty for speeding in the pit lane by just 0.1kph before being brought in to retire. Thankfully, he made amends the next round in Jeddah, qualifying seventh and putting in a solid drive on Sunday to secure his first points of the year in eighth place, holding off his new team mate in the closing laps.

A chance to score points in Melbourne went begging after Gasly inadvertently put them both out of the race during the manic final restart. But two more points followed in Miami with a respectable ninth place – albeit one place behind Gasly.

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But when Monaco came around, Ocon put in what ranks as one of the best weekend performances of any driver through the entire season. He was on provisional pole for a tantalising moment at the end of Q3 before taking fourth on the grid, which became third after Charles Leclerc’s penalty was applied. Then he kept his cool throughout the entire race even as the rain fell to keep Lewis Hamilton behind and secure a brilliant podium finish in third in what may have been his best performance of his career.

Esteban Ocon

GP start319
GP finish315

Ocon put together a series of strong drives in the second half of the year. He was running in sixth 43 laps into the Singapore Grand Prix before he was forced to retire with a gearbox problem, having been the lead Alpine driver across the weekend. He battled back from contact at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix with a long middle stint, being allowed to retake ninth place from Gasly at the end of the race after allowing him through to attack Alonso ahead earlier in the race.

Qatar was also a strong performance as Ocon secured a top seven finish, well ahead of Gasly, executing his team’s strategy with skill despite suffering so much from the heat he was physically sick in the cockpit early in the race. In Las Vegas, Ocon again shows excellent racecraft as he rose up from 16th on the grid to finish fifth, which became fourth following George Russell’s penalty.

Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon, Las Vegas, 2023
While Gasly hit trouble in Vegas, Ocon capitalised
But along with the strong performances, Ocon was guilty of some poor weekends too. His Austrian Grand Prix performance was littered with track limits offences across the weekend – so much so he set a new Formula 1 record for the greatest single number of penalties received in a single grand prix – five – largely down to ten track limits strikes over the 71-lap race. When Gasly took his sole podium of the season in Zandvoort, Ocon was seven places lower in tenth. While in Brazil, he got caught up in a bizarre incident with Alonso in qualifying for the sprint race, then finished half a minute behind Gasly in the grand prix.

By the end of the season, Ocon may have finished ahead of Gasly more often than not, but he had lost the qualifying battle between the pair by 14-8. Although he had one more top ten finish than his new team mate and ended the year just four points behind him, the reality was both Alpine drivers had pretty much performed about as well as each other. But with more notably bad races than Gasly over the year and the fact Gasly was fresh to the team, Ocon ended up being slightly overshadowed over the course of the year.

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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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12 comments on “2023 Formula 1 driver rankings #11: Esteban Ocon”

  1. William Harriss
    17th December 2023, 12:11

    Utterly ridiculous, alpines anonymity has made even journalists unable to recognise basic facts, ocon’s dominance over gasly especially over the first half of the year was obvious to anyone paying attention to the team and his awful luck

  2. Personally, I think Esteban Ocon should be above Pierre Gasly. I think he had a lot more bad luck, particularly in races where the Alpine was strong. In Australia, he was taken out by Gasly. In Singapore and Austin, Gasly scored big points while Ocon retired with mechanical failures while ahead of him. Correcting for those points would put Ocon clearly above Gasly in the championship. In other races where the car was good, Ocon beat Gasly in the points in Saudi Arabia, Spain, Canada, Belgium and Qatar (and Japan and Mexico but I won’t count those as they were fortunate). Gasly beat Ocon in only Miami, Austria and Brazil, and only the last case was this really a case of superior speed throughout. Then Gasly had one big result this year in Zandvoort, where he made an inspired strategy call and then drove very well but we don’t know that Ocon couldn’t have got the same result with the same strategy. However, Ocon had two big results in Monaco and Las Vegas. In Monaco, he was simply faster than Gasly and put in that extraordinary qualifying lap and nice drive to finish third. In Las Vegas, he kept his tyres intact to finish fourth while Gasly tumbled down the order, although he did have battery problems this was more because his tyres were gone. In both cases, either Alpine driver could have scored the big result and it was Ocon who did it. Gasly also made one huge blunder by taking both cars out in Australia, while Ocon had no similar mistake.

    Of course, Gasly did just about have the edge for qualifying pace and generally was the better driver towards the end of the season so might have the upper hand next year, particularly as it was his first season with Alpine. But in 2023, I think the points table is misleading and Esteban Ocon was the better Alpine driver.

    1. We can’t forget about Zandvoort, that team split their strategies twice, and both times it worked out better for Gasly. On lap 1, both drivers wanted to stop, and only Pierre got that – which helped him to jump several drivers, finding himself in P4 battle. Later, when rain came again in the final 15 laps, they played it safe with Gasly – because he had a position to defend. With Ocon, they waited until it was time for Full Wet tyres, and just a moment after they put Wets, race was red flagged – making him no opportunity to regain lost time. He lost track position to Norris, Hamilton, and Piastri, while right before the rain he was closing down on Russell.

      But hey, that’s just the part of using split strategies in F1. Sometimes you win and look like genius, and sometimes you lose and look like an idiot. For most instances of such a split strategy, Ocon was losing – like in Australia, when all the gamble on lap 1 went down the drain because of Red Flag after Albon crashed, or mentioned Dutch Grand Prix. I think the only time he got a split strategy which gave him promises was in Monza, but it still ended up with mechanical DNF.

      Ocon definitely have to improve his quali performance, because he dropped it big time in the 2nd part of the season. His racepace and tyre management seems to be improving, but still he’s having terrible races like Mexico or Brazil – only to manage his tyres great in Vegas. It might’ve been setup related as well, as Alpine is not fighting anyone – they might tend to roll the dice more often. Sometimes it doesn’t work (Azerbaijan comes to mind, he managed to drive whole race on a single set of tyres and not destroy them), and sometimes it does. That’s F1 in midfield in a nutshell.

      I’d rate him above Gasly as well, because he seemed to have even bigger edge in racetrim than Alonso had over him – and lost with less points despite even more DNFs than Alonso had last year. There were instances when Ocon looked great, like Monaco, Belgium (which was completely unnoticed, despite him pulling sick moves on Tsunoda and Albon – twice!), Qatar, or Vegas – but there also were races when he was completely hopeless, like Austria, Mexico or Brazil.

    2. Well argued @f1frog, I find myself agreeing with much of that, though in the end I’d also agree with Will Wood that they weren’t that far apart and also mainly limited in what the car and team could give them.

  3. Esteban Ocon can be fast and his Monaco performance was very solid. However I did not care to see him in the top ten. His attitude is nefarious, I rate Esteban in the top 3 most obnoxious drivers of all time.

    1. hes not an entitled rich kid who had a comfortable upbringing. he knows how nasty f1 can be, and he tries to stay above it. sure hes probably not too comfortable around most people, but he earned his right, and hes doing it without being a nasty gossip. i think what you will find in motor racing, is that the peeps who have things handed to them are more entitled to treating their competition like trash, which is why oconn keeps his demeanor. ive seen the way commentators, and his own team members rub him the wrong way. and i love how he holds on to the class he earned.

  4. My guesses for:

    F1 2023
    Top 10 Drivers

    1- Verstappen

    2- Alonso
    3- Norris
    4- Hamilton
    5- LeClerc
    6- Sainz
    7- Russell
    8- Piastri
    9- Albon
    10- Gasly

    I have my own doubts on my list. Moved some of the drivers around, then moved them again.
    Surely others do have their own lists too…

    1. I already posted my top 20 and I’m not doing it again, but from the votes for Best Driver of 2023 a few days ago, we can build a Racefans reader’s ranking (158 votes total). Only percentages are given, so we lose a bit of resolution.
      1: Max Verstappen 56% of the vote
      2: Fernando Alonso 15%
      3: Oscar Piastri 9%
      4: Lando Norris 8%
      5 Alex Albon 4%
      6: Tie with Charles Leclerc & Lewis Hamilton 3%
      8: Tie with Liam Lawson, Yuki Tsunoda. Kevin Magnussen, Nico Hulkenberg % Carlos Sainz 1%
      13:0% for Nick de Vries, Logan Sergeant, Dan Ricciardo, Lance Stroll, Zhou Guanyou, Valtteri Bottas., Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon, George Russell & Sergio Perez

      Nobody seems to have voted for GR, who had a fairly decent season. I was also surprised by Oscar Piastri, who did a great rookie season but was hardly better than Lando Norris overall (probably the rookie factor gave him a few extra votes). And the brigade is very vocal here but it did not account for very much.

      1. Nobody voted for russell cause he did NOT have a decent season, I’m sure many others will think that, he was destroyed by hamilton because of his costly mistakes like singapore or canada, much worse than last year, one would give him a pass last year cause it was his first season in merc, but not the 2nd year.

      2. Russell himself was disappointed by his own season!

        1. Liam Lawson, Yuki Tsunoda. Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg got at least 1 vote, were they all better than George Russell? Not in my opinion, but then the everybody has one.

  5. Extremely over generous rating.

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