Esteban Ocon makes bold pace prediction for tightly-packed Spanish GP field

Henry Valantine
Esteban Ocon speaking during a press conference. Bahrain, February 2023.

Esteban Ocon speaking during a press conference. Bahrain, February 2023.

Esteban Ocon believes as many as 10 places will be able to be gained in Spanish Grand Prix qualifying with as little as three tenths of a second, with the Formula 1 field looking tightly bunched in free practice on Friday.

The top 10 lapped within half a second of Max Verstappen’s fastest effort in FP2, where qualifying simulations traditionally take place, and the top 17 cars were all within a second of the Red Bull driver come the end of the session.

After getting on the podium last time out in Monaco, Ocon and Alpine appeared to carry over their competitive pace into Barcelona, with the Frenchman ranking fifth in FP2 on Friday.

But given how fine the margins were around him throughout the day on Friday, Ocon is relishing the chance for the driver to be able to make a difference on track around Barcelona on Saturday.

“It’s going to be super close, that’s for sure,” Ocon said to F1 TV after FP2.

“I mean, three tenths I think is about 10 places. So it’s pretty awesome, really awesome to see that.

“The field is getting so close since a couple of races [ago] and that means that the driver can do the difference, and I hope it’s going to be a similar thing in quali, and I hope that we can have a chance obviously of fighting near the front.” recommends

Lewis Hamilton gives worrying verdict for Spanish GP chances in upgraded Mercedes

Spanish GP FP2: Max Verstappen pips Fernando Alonso to top spot, Hulkenberg P3

Alpine introduced a significant upgrade package last time out in Monaco and seemingly made a big stride forward with their pace, with Ocon leapfrogging the Mercedes drivers in qualifying and one of the Ferrari drivers on outright pace before Charles Leclerc received a grid penalty, promoting him further up the grid.

Ocon has lauded the improvements Alpine have brought to the A523, and hopes they can continue to make a difference moving forward.

“I think so far, the car has felt more alive since Monaco, so since we are bringing the updates,” Ocon said.

“I think it’s been awesome that the team kept pushing like that and kept pushing very aggressively into developments, and visually you can see how aggressive it is.

“But you know, it’s been only Friday on a normal track. It’s tomorrow really that we are going to see where we are exactly.”