Four weeks after his very first Grand Prix victory, Esteban Ocon (Alpine) still can’t believe it: “It’s just huge, it’s been a month already… I haven’t seen the time go by. Everything is going very quickly at the moment. “ 1er August, on the soggy asphalt of the Budapest circuit, the Frenchman benefited from several racing facts to win, at the age of 24, the Grail for a Formula 1 driver.
A little less than a year after the victory of Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) in Italy, on the Monza circuit, Ocon thus became the fourteenth French driver in history to win a Grand Prix in the premier class. So, obviously, when it comes time to find the paddock to prepare for the Belgian Grand Prix, which will take place on Sunday, August 29, everything has changed for the Normand. Ocon has fallen into the big leagues, those who have one or more victories in Formula 1.
Of the twenty drivers on the grid for the 2021 season, eleven are in this category. Obviously, in the Ocon clan, there is joy at the end of summer. “It’s just amazing to come back to the paddock and see the smile of the whole team. Everyone takes pictures with the trophy, it’s priceless, confides the French. I’m super proud, but the past has no future so you have to stay focused to continue to perform. “ Re-mobilize to get new points in the fight for the constructors standings.
“My goal is to be world champion”
Because before thinking about the rest of his career after his victory in Budapest, Ocon wants to play it collectively: “The season is not yet completely successful. Winning a race is crazy and the season is already incredible. But I think it will be entirely successful if we manage to clinch fifth place in the constructors’ standings, ahead of AlphaTauri and Aston Martin. In any case, the Hungarian Grand Prix gave us confirmation that we are doing a good job. And that there is nothing to change at the moment. “
Formula 1 is a team sport, but it is also and above all an individual discipline. And when a driver has tasted victory, it’s hard not to become addicted, as Alain Prost, non-executive director of Alpine and four-time Formula 1 world champion, explained after the Hungarian Grand Prix: “Ocon part eighth [sur la grille] and can win a race. Every time he’s going to be at the start of a Grand Prix, he’s going to think about that. “
Oh hello, 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix winner, @OconEsteban #BelgianGP https://t.co/onvytfbTLs
Ocon will not contradict his illustrious elder. Her presence at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – he got behind the wheel of an endurance car before the race – nurtured the possibility of a career change. “Why not switch to endurance in the future. But, for now, I’m completely focused on Formula 1 and my goal is to win other races and be world champion ”, Ocon warns.
After taking advantage of the chaos in the first corner in Budapest, a mistake by Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes, and the mediation of his teammate Fernando Alonso to slow down the seven-time British world champion, Ocon turned into a fighter of ‘occasions. Alpine’s A521 cannot compete with the big teams, but the Frenchman remains attentive to the smallest openings during the races.
Go look for a new podium
At Spa-Francorchamps, the very first circuit on which Ocon raced in Formula 1, in 2016 when he started working for Manor, the Normand could be served. “It’s always a crazy thing here. We come back from vacation where it is 30 degrees and we arrive here where it is 10 degrees ”, declares, all smiles, the pilot of Alpine. Who says capricious weather, says possibility of seeing the rain appear during the race. “There will be opportunities if it rains and we will have to seize those that present themselves to us”, says Ocon.
The opportunity, why not, to go find a new podium. After his second place at the Sakhir Grand Prix on December 6, 2020, Ocon definitely took a step forward with his victory in Budapest. If the second half of the season has only just started with the Belgian Grand Prix and ensures that his goals have not changed with his victory in Hungary, the Frenchman has already made a success of his year from a personal point of view.
But Ocon does not want to stop there. A great revenge for the one who had been put aside in 2019 before finding a seat at Renault, which later became Alpine. The French team took advantage of the prologue to the Grand Prix of Spa-Francorchamps to announce Thursday the extension for an additional season of Fernando Alonso, until 2022.
Ocon, he has been linked from June until 2024 with Alpine. A contract for three more seasons which says a lot about the confidence the French team brings to its driver.