Ocon: P5 in qualifying confirms Alpine step forward

Esteban Ocon says his impressive fifth place in Saturday's qualifying shootout in Barcelona is a confirmation that Alpine... The post Ocon: P5 in qualifying confirms Alpine step forward appeared first on F1i.com.

Ocon: P5 in qualifying confirms Alpine step forward

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.

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."

  • Read also: Hamilton hits historic 100th pole ahead of Verstappen

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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'Progress means positivity' for Ricciardo, as Norris fumes

McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo was feeling much more like his old self after a successful qualifying campaign for the... The post 'Progress means positivity' for Ricciardo, as Norris fumes appeared first on F1i.com.

'Progress means positivity' for Ricciardo, as Norris fumes

McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo was feeling much more like his old self after a successful qualifying campaign for the Spanish Grand Prix wiped clean the memories of seven days ago.

Ricciardo failed to make it beyond the first round in Portugal and had started from 16th place on the grid. While he battled his way into the points by the end of the race, it wasn't an experience he wanted to repeat anytime soon.

Today's session saw the Australian in much better form as he successfully out-qualified his young team mate Lando Norris to start from eighth on the grid tomorrow.

"It was a little bit of a Monza scenario a couple years ago," he told Sky Sports F1 afterwards. "There was a tenth or so to fourth, and I think a tenth is always there.

"Maybe that was there, but nonetheless it was a much, much better day and happier even from yesterday and obviously a week ago. But progress: progress means positivity!"

Ricciardo has been on the receiving end of some critical comments in recent weeks, comparing less than favourably to his young team mate. Today's result helps put the seven-time Grand Prix race winner back on an even footing.

"It’s funny: everyone’s interpretation is the narrative. For sure, it’s taken time to get up to speed and also Lando has been driving exceptionally well.

"These two factors have been challenging, I guess," he acknowledged. "From that note it’s certainly a more positive day.

"And in saying that, there’s still a little bit of maybe what could have been because we missed the last run, we ran out of time."

As for Norris, he was still fuming about an incident in the first round of qualifying when he was held up on his flying lap by Haas' rookie driver Nikita Mazepin.

It meant that the team had to use an extra set of tyres in Q1, which affected their strategy later on as Norris was left with only one set of new soft compound tyres for Q3.

“I feel like it kind of cost me qualie today,” Norris told RaceFans.net and other media at Barcelona. “The car was good, I feel like I didn’t do a bad job.

"I just had one guy who held me up a lot, which meant I had to use my second set of tyres," he explained. “When it’s split by thousandths and hundredths and tenths and stuff, you want to have the opportunity to kind of improve and you can’t make any mistakes.

"Everyone got out of my way apart from one person," he continued. "I'm not gonna say names because it's unfair to do that, but I lost a lot of time, like, half a second, six, seven tenths or something.

"It kind of ruined my whole qualifying in a way," he added. "One small mistake or just something that doesn't go right, you can pay a big price for it.

“When you have something like that and you only have one set of tyres to really push on, it definitely cost us today.

"I think we had more pace in the car today," he said. "So it’s a bit annoying because I feel like we could have been fifth, sixth or something but it didn’t happen.

"It's just probably my worst session, my worst qualifying so far this year," he sighed. "So a bit of a shame, because there's definitely some more potential in the car. And I was feeling good, I just didn't put it together.

"There was one mistake really in Q3. I just went a bit wide over one of the kerbs and damaged a little bit the car but then didn't really improve on my second lap either."

Mazepin was subsequently handed a penalty by the race stewards for blocking Norris. However since he qualified in last place, the three-place grid drop is effectively meaningless.

He was also given a penalty point on his F1 superlicence, the second in six days after he was also penalised for ignoring blue flags and holding up Sergio Perez during the Portuguese Grand Prix.

Mazepin was less than impressed and criticised F1's "gentleman's agreement" about respecting track position during qualifying.

"I think it was a very prime example of that not sort of working in F1," he said in a video call with journalists on Saturday evening. "I was really trying to keep to it, ever since I took note of it, but it is very difficult when two cars overtake you going into last corner

"With the length of a car, which is two and a half metres, you just cannot put a third car there, and especially if the fourth car is arriving at full speed," he said. "I didn't feel like boxing up behind was an option, because that would have left my rear end on the racing line.

"The only option was to go, which I did," he concluded. "I'm not upset about it, because there's really not much I could have done, apart from, you know, disappear. Which unfortunately I'm not yet able to do."

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