Ocon says he found ‘close to a perfect balance’ after going P3 in second practice at Zandvoort
Esteban Ocon ended Free Practice 2 for the Dutch Grand Prix in a strong P3 behind the two Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz – with the Frenchman revelling in a close to “perfect balance” in his Alpine A521 on Friday, around a Zandvoort track that he called a “pure pleasure to drive”.
Both Ocon and team mate Fernando Alonso spent the whole day inside the top 10, Alonso heading Ocon as the Alpine drivers took P6 and P7 in FP1, as Ocon then took P3 in FP2, as Alonso once again finished sixth.
And despite Friday’s running having been interrupted by three red flags, Ocon was nonetheless pleased with how his day had gone.
“I do feel that we can improve some stuff,” said Ocon. “But definitely the car felt very strong out there. It’s probably the closest to a perfect balance that we’ve had so far this year. I think the track, just how it is... with it being very high grip [probably helps] with our balance. It’s been a pleasure to drive, it’s good fun and we hope that it will be the same tomorrow.
“The work we’ve done in the simulator has helped us in general to arrive and be ready with a good pre-event set-up,” added Ocon, who received a warning from the stewards after narrowly avoiding contact with Lando Norris in FP1.
“We keep tweaking once we arrived on the real track, but we definitely picked up things on the simulator that would have taken us some time to figure out here. So it’s a good job that we worked so hard in the sim and that the guys in the factory managed to put the sim so close to reality.”
Alonso, meanwhile, was more cautious than his team mate, predicting that there was plenty of lap time still to come from Alpine’s rivals this weekend.
“It was a good Friday,” said Alonso. “But we’ve been quick on Fridays and then not so much on Saturdays and Sundays. So we still need to wait for tomorrow, but so far it seems competitive, the car. The sessions were not trouble-free for anyone, and we saw a lot of red flags and so on, so I think still a lot of lap time to come for everybody, and same for us.”
Meanwhile, with traffic also an issue, Alonso warned that the drivers should expect an “intense” start to Saturday’s qualifying on the narrow Zandvoort track.
“It was difficult because you get traffic every two or three laps, the tyres get cold so you reset things,” said Alonso. “So it’s going to be tricky tomorrow, the traffic, I guess. Q1 will be intense for everybody.”