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Ocon: Alpine made first “step backwards” since F1 season start

Esteban Ocon thinks Alpine made its first “step backwards” since the start of the Formula 1 season in last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A524

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

While the pace of the Frenchman and team-mate Pierre Gasly was impacted by damage picked up following an opening-lap clash, Ocon does not think that should be an excuse for an overall lack of performance.

While both drivers were left facing a downforce deficit – with Gasly said to have lost around 33 points compared to Ocon’s 15 – the slump down the order was not solely caused by that.

Speaking after the race, having finished in 15th and more than 20 seconds adrift of Valtteri Bottas ahead of him, Ocon was downbeat about things.

Asked if the first lap damage had effectively derailed hopes of a good showing, Ocon said: “I don't think it has changed the overall picture of the race, unfortunately.

“It didn't help, that's for sure, but we didn't lose that much performance on both cars. I think we were just not quick enough.

“I think we did this weekend a good step forward in qualifying, but in the race, that's probably the first step backwards that we're doing since Bahrain. And there are some similarities between here and Bahrain, so we need to look at that.”

Ocon said that while Alpine had gone aggressive with its strategy to try something different, there was ultimately little it could do against rivals.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A524 Logan Sargeant, Williams FW46

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A524 Logan Sargeant, Williams FW46

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“Strategy-wise, we tried to be bold, and we tried to undercut a lot of cars, which we did,” he said. “We passed four cars at one point but yeah, I could not do anything to hold them behind. And that was it today, unfortunately.

“I felt like I couldn't fight. The other ones were in another category.”

The disappointing race form came after the team appeared to have made some progress with its single-lap pace, as Ocon had made it through to Q2 again.

But he suggests that its form had perhaps been flattered by changes the team made, which have had consequences for long-run form.

“There are some things that we changed which could mean that we struggle more in the race,” he said. “But for sure, it wasn't good.”

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