'We need to make our life easier on Saturdays' says Ocon after top 10 finish on F1 return
F1 returnee Esteban Ocon turned his frown from qualifying upside down in Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix season opener, surging from a disappointing P14 on the grid to finish eighth at the flag, 18 months on from his last start in the sport.
Having not competed in an F1 race since Abu Dhabi 2018, Ocon was the happy beneficiary of a number of big name drop outs during the Austrian Grand Prix – including his own Renault team mate Daniel Ricciardo and both Red Bulls – as he swept to a points finish on his Grand Prix return.
And having been downcast after qualifying about where the pace deficit between himself and Ricciardo on Saturday had come from – which had led to Ocon, unlike his team mate, failing to make it out of Q2 – the Frenchman was far more satisfied with his efforts on Sunday.
“I’m pretty happy with how the race went,” said Ocon. “To be honest, starting from 14th, it was a pretty good effort. The car was very nice in the race and the pace was very solid. I was catching a lot of the cars around me, I had to fight until the end.
“Definitely we need to make our lives a bit easier on Saturdays, starting a bit further up and then we should be in the mix to fight with the other cars.”
Ricciardo had been ebullient about his own Renault R.S.20’s one-lap pace after the weekend, having used it to qualify P10 – while he felt he could have gone even higher had he not had to slow for yellow flags in Q3.
And asked if he thought he could improve his own one-lap performances in time for next weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix at the same venue, Ocon replied: “My target is to rectify that definitely. If it’s too soon, time will tell, but I’m looking forward to improve everything that we need to do better.”
Meanwhile, one driver who was less happy with Ocon’s return to Formula 1 was AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat, with the Russian blaming the pair’s contact at Turn 6 on Lap 63 for the slow puncture that eventually forced him into retirement one lap from the end.