Ocon: Reducing gap to leaders 'a high target' for Alpine
Esteban Ocon says Alpine’s objective of finishing fourth in the Constructors’ standings may “sound similar” to last year but achieving that ambition while reducing the points gap with F1’s top-three is a big undertaking for the French outfit.
Last year, Alpine concluded its campaign ‘best of the rest’ but at a fair distance from third-placed team Mercedes, with a 342 point gap separating the two outfits.
At Alpine’s launch last week, the manufacturer’s CEO Laurent Rossi said that finishing fourth was the team’s “minimum target” in 2023, but emphasized that the Enstone squad had to do it with “more finishes, less retirements and more points”.
Ocon insists that’s “a high target”, but it’s one that an ambitious team such as Alpine must set itself.
- Read also: Alpine boss wants ‘more finishes, less retirements, more points’
“Yes, as a target itself, it can sound similar to say we want to finish fourth, but the gap from fourth to third is huge at the moment,” commented the Frenchman.
“It was about 300 points or something in the constructors. So if we can be fourth but try and get much closer to third and maybe fight for third, that’s a completely different dimension.
“Trying to [go from] top-five finishes into podium territories, that’s completely different. So obviously it’s a very high target that we’re setting ourselves.
“But we have to set ourselves that target. We are very ambitious, we are competitors. That’s what we want to achieve. In Formula 1, anything can happen and we hope there’s going to be surprises.”
Any surprise – such as a repeat of Ocon’s win in the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix – would be a welcomed bonus. But finishing first on merit is a very long shot.
“Realistically, I don’t think that’s where we set ourselves,” added Ocon.
“Obviously, if we put the car in Bahrain and it’s super-performing, we can speak after Bahrain, yes. But at the moment I don’t think that is realistic.
“We’ll see. There could be surprises in F1, we’ve seen it in the past. We were not expecting the Brawn to be a winning car in 2009. So we will see.”
This week’s pre-season test will enlighten Alpine on its prospects. But based on his first impression of the team’s new A523 when it was shaken down last week, Ocon is confident that Alpine will enjoy a good start to its 2023 season.
“When I come to the car and look at it closely, all of the details – how every part goes close to each other, how good all the details look, even from my position how the carbon seat is finished, the pedal box… last year the car looked like a toy in comparison to this year!” he said.
“This year it’s a proper race machine.
“It’s a huge step, so I think we are in much, much better shape than we were last year. Let’s see if it’s confirmed on track.”
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