Esteban Ocon made his 100th F1 start in the Austrian Grand Prix and while he finished fifth, he said it felt like a win.
The Frenchman enjoyed his strongest weekend of the season at the Red Bull Ring, finishing fifth in the grand prix just 24 hours after he had also collected points for taking the sprint’s P6.
Those results came just under a year since Ocon’s finest hour in his career so far, when he clinched victory at a chaotic Hungarian Grand Prix.
But while race No 11 of the 2021 campaign still cannot be topped, No 11 in 2022 was still highly rewarding for the Alpine driver as he brought up the career century of Formula 1 appearances – on a day when his team-mate, Fernando Alonso, started at the back of the grid but also claimed one point himself.
P🖐🏼!! What a weekend 🔥 Next up: HOME GP! 💙🤍❤️ pic.twitter.com/fCJvt0g0fS
— Esteban Ocon (@OconEsteban) July 10, 2022
“It was a perfect weekend in terms of performance and how we optimised the result,” Ocon told reporters after the grand prix.
“It’s not a win but it feels like a win because there was nothing better we could have done from qualifying to the sprint to now.”
The 25-year-old, in another interview, had dispelled suggestions it had been a quiet race by listing the on-track battles he had waged, including with George Russell who was fighting back in the Mercedes following an early collision with Sergio Perez that had required a front-wing change.
“There was some hope I could have kept George behind, but after the Virtual Safety Car restart (following Carlos Sainz’ engine failure) he was just too fast, so there was no possibility to keep him under control and behind,” added Ocon.
“Thirteen points [for the team] and we obviously are tied with McLaren now in the Constructors’ Championship.”
Next up for Ocon is his home race, the French Grand Prix, and he goes there optimistic the improvements Alpine are making to the A522 will help him to considerably better his only two previous results at Paul Ricard – 14th last year and a retirement due to a collision with, of all people, his compatriot Pierre Gasly when driving for Force India in 2018.
“It’s very positive,” said Ocon. “I’m very happy to see the one (upgrade) we took to Silverstone made quite a difference, we can really see it now. I hope the next ones will be as big.
“We still have work to do to be able to perform against Mercedes because they are still too fast, so if the team can bring more of this stuff we will take it!
“I go to France with confidence and the team go there with good confidence, and I have no doubt we will perform also there.”
Ocon thriving in Alonso's shadow
Esteban Ocon is doing a sterling job at Alpine, even if it is going slightly unnoticed in some quarters.