Esteban Ocon says his impressive fifth place in Saturday’s qualifying shootout in Barcelona is a confirmation that Alpine has made a clear step forward since the start of the season.
Ocon secured at the Circuit de Catalunya his best qualifying result since the 2018 Belgian GP at Spa where the Frenchman lined up third on the grid, racing for Racing Point.
But the 24-year-old also outpaced his veteran teammate Fernando Alonso for the third consecutive time as the Spaniard concluded the session P10.
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Ocon praised the crews at Alpine’s Enstone and Viry-Chatillon factories for their efforts of late.
“I feel good, it’s been a great session, very pleased with starting with the top-five,” said Ocon. “It’s been a long time but it’s shows that we are working extremely well with my group of people at the moment.
“Also, not being satisfied with where we were at the start of the season has paid off, because you know both factories are so motivated to improve the pace of the car, and each time we are finding a few little things on the package that seem to be working.
“So we need to keep going because at the moment we have good rhythm.”
Asked whether the performance of Alpine’s A521 would be track specific or not moving forward, Ocon reckoned that Saturday’s pace in Barcelona in the wake of the car’s good performance in Portugal delivered a clear answer to that question.
“It’s a confirmation that the car is working fine,” he said. “In Portimão, it was a very specific track, with low grip and quite difficult so we weren’t sure.
“We wanted to come here and see how the car performed because last year we were out of the top ten. That we are in the top five in qualifying, it really confirms that we’ve made a step forward.”
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Like his rivals, Ocon failed to improve his best time on his second run in Q3. But the Frenchman says his final flyer was actually faster until he encountered an issue.
“I was going to improve, but I got a little issue that we need to have a look at what it is exactly, but I was a tenth up,” he explained.
“So a bit disappointing, we could have probably gotten P4 but we’re satisfied with how the qualie went.”
Ocon is confident of a good showing in Sunday’s race but expects a challenge from Ferrari whose drivers qualified just ahead of the Alpine charger.
“I think the car is capable in the race,” he added. “Definitely we’ve shown that we were fast also in Portimão.
“I think the Ferraris will give us a tough time, especially Charles who was very fast on Friday. So we need to see but we race in there to fight!”
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