RACE DEBRIEF

    Ocon distraught after Bottas denies him Saudi podium – but warns that Alpine becoming ‘dangerous’ for rivals

    Esteban Ocon says it is “very frustrating” to miss out on a stunning podium by just a few seconds after being pipped by Valtteri Bottas – but he was already taking the positives, believing Alpine are heading in the right direction and can be “dangerous” in the future.

    The Frenchman, who started ninth, tussled with Yuki Tsunoda at the start and then gained track position by deciding not to pit ahead of the red flag, and at one point found himself second as Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen fought it out.

    READ MORE: Hamilton beats Verstappen in controversy-filled first ever Saudi Arabian Grand Prix as title rivals draw equal on points

    He was then elevated to first after the second red flag, ahead of Hamilton with Verstappen dropping to third following a scuffle. Ocon dropped to third when the two title contenders got ahead, but spent the remainder of that race in that position. That was until Bottas skated by in the closing moments to snatch the podium – denying Alpine a second-straight rostrum in the process, after Fernando Alonso finished P3 in Qatar.

    “It’s difficult feelings right now, we gave it all in that race,” he said. “It’s a frustrating end as we had that third place for the whole race. The team did an amazing job, the car was spot on but we’re fighting in a different league to Mercedes and to lose that third place 10 seconds from the line is very frustrating.

    Esteban Ocon: 'We gave it all' in our quest for the podium

    “But it’s the plan, as Fernando would call it. We’re getting there. We are getting where we want, we extract the maximum out of the car. Once we are going to have that pace that the others have, we are going to be dangerous. That’s what we’re working towards.

    “I’m extremely proud of all the decisions we took, everything was mega, spot on, but it’s a difficult end.”

    The last time Ocon managed a chaotic race and seized his opportunities was in Hungary – where he held off intense pressure from Sebastian Vettel to clinch a maiden victory. Did he think that lightening might strike twice?

    “I was going to take any opportunity I could for sure,” he said. “There was a lot of contact in that race. But the first two starts, I gained four places. But I was not fighting against Lewis and Max. I knew that. I let them go and they did their own race. The aim was to keep third place, and we did so until far into the race. Next time.”

    Ocon’s fourth was his second successive top-five finish and moved him to within five points of Alpine team mate Fernando Alonso with just one race to go.