Esteban Ocon hopes Alpine can keep improving their car to the point where they can fight with Mercedes this season.
Alpine’s most direct battle is currently with McLaren and it literally could not be closer, for the teams are tied on 81 points in the Constructors’ Championship.
McLaren shade fourth position ahead of Alpine, however, due to Lando Norris’ third-place finish in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix – the only time either team have been represented on the podium so far this year.
They are both a massive 156 points adrift of Mercedes, but Alpine have pledged to keep adding upgrades to their car until the budget cap prevents them from doing so – and Ocon hopes that could be a game-changer.
The Frenchman was highly encouraged by his own result in the Austrian Grand Prix where he finished fifth – his best placing of the season, matching the same position his team-mate Fernando Alonso had occupied at Silverstone a week earlier.
Asked on Channel 4 whether Alpine are capable of “mixing it with the big boys” this term, Ocon replied: “Yeah. At the moment, that’s where we are of course. As much as we have improved the car, we haven’t improved it enough yet to be able to fight the Mercs.
“But it is the aim to fight higher, for sure, and it’s still early days and I have hopes we can at some point fight with them.
“There are plans to bring more things to the car and we’ve seen since Silverstone the team brought an upgrade and made a massive step up.
“So that’s still on the way and we will keep going.”
What will also buoy Ocon’s spirits personally is that he has 23 points more to his name this season than Alonso, although it must be caveated that the Spaniard has endured an inordinate amount of bad luck.
Nevertheless, the duo continue to work well in tandem to deliver what Alpine need as they strive to improve upon the fifth place in the teams’ standings they have filled for each of the past three years.
Regarding a comparison between the duo, the 25-year-old added: “Well, I’m in front of him in the championship at the moment and we are still pushing each other in the team.
“It’s going well for me at the moment, I’m pretty pleased. It’s very close, he’s mega at every race, he’s consistently pushing and that’s what brings the team performance up as well, and we are happy with the collaboration since last year.”