Esteban Ocon has revealed he struggled to get to grips with the Renault in 2020 because it was markedly different to the F1 cars he had been used to driving.
The Frenchman returned after a year away from the grid by partnering Daniel Ricciardo at Renault, but took most of the season to finally hit his straps and become a force.
The undoubted highlight was at the penultimate race of the season, the Sakhir Grand Prix, in which Ocon certainly had some luck on his side but was still delighted to claim an emotional first F1 podium finish in second place behind Sergio Perez.
Having begun his Formula 1 racing career with Manor in 2016, the 24-year-old spent the following two years with Force India and was the Mercedes reserve driver for 2019.
He said the Renault had felt like a complete sea-change from those two latter-named cars and required a major adjustment.
“We experimented more and more on my side,” said Ocon, quoted by Motorsport-total.com, who is driving the course car on stages one and two of the Monte Carlo Rally.
“I tried to adapt my driving style to the car, but in Formula 1 you improve when you work more closely with the engineers and work more on the car. That gives you confidence.
“[But] the car didn’t work like the Mercedes or the Force India. It’s not the same, they don’t have the same characteristics.
“You don’t take the corners the same way, it’s a little different. How you go about it and how you set up the car is also different.”
Oh yes mega excited to take part of such an event as the Monte Carlo in the Alpine A110S🔥
Racing in the first 2 stages is gonna be epic !! I will be practicing in the shakedown the whole morning, stay tuned😎 https://t.co/bAflxw7FiW
— Esteban Ocon (@OconEsteban) January 20, 2021
Ocon admitted he had originally planned to apply the same methods he had at Force India – with whom his best result was fifth in the 2017 Spanish and Mexican Grands Prix – when he joined Renault.
“I thought I would just come back and do everything the same as I did with Force India,” he said. “But that’s not the case. All cars are different. We understood that better and better.”
It was in Bahrain, in the Sakhir Grand Prix on the shorter Outer circuit, where everything finally clicked into place.
“The car felt really strong,” he said. “I think we put our finger on something. It was definitely the right path and the right progress.”
For 2021, Ocon will have Fernando Alonso as his team-mate following Ricciardo’s departure to McLaren, with Renault undergoing a rebrand to Alpine.
Laurent Rossi and Davide Brivio have been appointed as team bosses following the departure of Cyril Abiteboul.