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F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Final Practice ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 19: Esteban Ocon of France and Alpine F1 looks on during final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on November 19, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Teammates with Pierre Gasly next season.

Ocon: Alpine “next in line” to become frontrunners

Alpine have made good progress this season, finishing fourth in the constructors' championship, claiming the 'top of the midfield' spot

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Alpine driver Esteban Ocon believes that the Enstone team are “next in line” to become a frontrunning team in Formula 1.

F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - QualifyingABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 19: Esteban Ocon of France, Team Alpine A522 Renault during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on November 19, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Ocon had a great season, topping it off with a seventh-place finish in Abu Dhabi (Image Credit: Heuler Andrey/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

Alpine had a great start to the new regulations in 2022. It was looking worrying for the Enstone team during pre-season testing. However, the French team managed to nail the upgrades to the car, giving the A522 a lot more in performance.

Alpine managed to finish 14 points ahead of their rivals McLaren, finishing with 174 points. Ocon managed to beat Alonso, finishing eighth in the drivers’ championship with 92 points. The Frenchman found himself 11 points ahead of his outgoing teammate.

Alpine “next in line”

The Enstone team have not been fighting for championships since Fernando Alonso won back-to-back titles with Renault in 2005 and 2006. The French team managed to win their first race since Kimi Raikkonen’s win with Lotus at Australia in 2013 with Ocon winning the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix.

Despite not competing for victories yet, the Frenchman is confident that Alpine are “next in line” whilst speaking to Racingnews365.com.

“Hopefully we can get closer to the front, it is the aim and next year’s car in the simulator is very promising at the moment,” the 26-year-old said.

“Obviously we are keeping people on the ground, but it feels like a step in the right direction, and I look forward to seeing what we will be able to do.”

Ocon also believes Alpine has a chance if the regulations stay the same. The 26-year-old is confident of the Enstone team being able to compete with the ‘big three’:

“If you keep the regulations the same, at some point, every team progresses and hopefully you get closer to the top three.

“We are focused at the moment – and we are the next ones in line to get there.”

F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - PracticeABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 18: Esteban Ocon of France, Team Alpine A522 Renault during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi at Yas Marina Circuit on November 18, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Ocon is confident in the Enstone team’s ability to push on from 2022 into 2023 (Image Credit: Heuler Andrey/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)
Alpine focus on pace rather than reliability

The 2022 season saw the Enstone team experience many reliability woes. This issue could hamper the French team’s progress going into the 2023 season.

The team made it clear earlier on in the year that performance of the engine was going to be the main focus. The decision resulted in some frustration with Alonso’s side of the garage.

The Spaniard experienced multiple failures with his A522 car. The reliability cost Alpine a lot of points in the championship. If the Enstone team had managed to sort it out, they would have found themselves well clear of McLaren.

However, despite the amount of reliability problems, Ocon is not concerned. The 26-year-old thought about the potential rewards to the possible risks, keeping the Frenchman calm.

“It was always the strategy of the team to have a quick engine to have a competitive and pushy car, [as opposed] to finishing races at the back,” Ocon explained.

“That was the aim because [engine development] regulations are frozen, and we wanted to push from the beginning, and that obviously poses reliability issues.”

The Frenchman made the point of still finishing fourth in the championship. He also acknowledged the number of points lost due to reliability, but was satisfied with the performance of the car.

F1 Grand Prix of HungaryBUDAPEST, HUNGARY - JULY 31: Esteban Ocon of France driving the (31) Alpine F1 A522 Renault leads Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) Alpine F1 A522 Renault during the F1 Grand Prix of Hungary at Hungaroring on July 31, 2022 in Budapest, Hungary. Alonso will make way for Pierre Gasly next season.
Alonso and Ocon were not afraid to get their elbows out, despite being teammates, resulting in sometimes clashing with each other (Image Credit: Joe Portlock via Getty Images)
Upgrades satisfied Ocon

Alpine did not have the greatest of starts in 2022. Pre-season testing saw the Enstone team worry about the performance of their A522 car.

However, the French team managed to provide effective upgrades consistently throughout the season. The upgrades provided worked perfectly to what the team said that it was going to do.

The Frenchman said that at the start of the season, Alpine were “behind the Haas and Alfa Romeo cars”. However, the 26-year-old managed to “quickly find out where the issues were”. This resulted in the team managing to “translate that into upgrades”, which helped the team massively.

“With that understanding and at the same time of putting upgrades in, I really feel like I’ve stepped up,” Ocon explained.

The teamwork and hardwork reaped out the rewards. Ocon revealed that the upgrades helped him feel “at one” with the A522 car. This enabled the Frenchman to get the “maximum out of it (the car) on some weekends and scoring some big points like fourth or fifth”.

“Weekends like Austria, like Suzuka and Budapest all felt very strong,” the Alpine driver concluded.

Ocon will partner up with Pierre Gasly in an all-French lineup next season. The Enstone team will be hoping to make a step forward for the 2023 season.

Do you think Alpine will be the next team to challenge Red Bull, Ferrari, and Red Bull for race victories?

Feature Image Credit: Mark Thompson via Getty Images

 

 

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