Esteban Ocon feared a ‘big, big issue’ had he missed his braking point in Baku pitlane incident

Michelle Foster
Esteban Ocon blurred pit stop. Azerbaijan April 2023

Alpine driver Esteban Ocon blurred pit stop. Azerbaijan April 2023

Pitting at the end of the penultimate lap of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Esteban Ocon feared a “big, big issue” had he missed his braking point as he dropped from 300kph to the mandated 80kph.

Starting the Grand Prix from the pit lane after Alpine changed his A523’s set-up on Saturday morning, Ocon opted for the hard Pirellis and a long first stint. It turned out to be the longest of all – the Frenchman only pitting at the end of the 50th lap.

But, as he came in for his obligatory tyre change, he was met with a crowd of people gathering for the podium ceremony – the photographers and such having to quickly move out of his way.

It was a scary moment, one that could have ended in tragedy had the driver – hitting the brakes to drop from 300kph to just 80kph – made even the smallest of mistakes.

“It was definitely scary,” he told Sky Sports. “I don’t know why everyone was starting to prep the podium, we were still racing and there was all the time in the world to be doing so.

“It could have been a big, big issue for everyone there. I’m arriving at more than 300kph, leaving my braking as late as I can and they were just after the line as well so if I miss my braking point…

“I had to brake, I had to avoid and it was pretty scary. Luckily it was all good. I had no idea that they were there. I’ve never seen that before.” recommends

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‘It was a bit like a scene from Group B rallying days’

Alpine sporting director Alan Permane said it reminded him of Group B rallying days, those events curtailed in 1986 due to fans getting too close to the action.

While he feels no one was in “serious danger” as Ocon had slowed down, he reckons if anyone in the crowd hasn’t been aware it could have been a different story.

“Esteban’s doing 80kph so he can stop the car pretty quickly if he needs to,” he said as per The Race. “So, whilst it was quite scary to look at, I’m sure he was in full control, and no one was in serious danger.

“But it was a bit like a scene from Group B rallying days, wasn’t it? With the crowds on the track and parting as he got there?

“The biggest problem is if they weren’t watching. But he’s not moving very quickly at that point.”

He added: “It’s something we’ve seen before. There’s a keenness, I don’t know why the photographers are allowed there, but of course, I understand people want to get the shots of the cars coming into parc ferme and things like that.

“But the pitlane is still open and the racetrack is still live. I don’t think it’s rocket science to think that, I think it’d be quite a simple one.”

FIA quick to take action after Esteban Ocon pit incident

With the stewards noting the events, they met with FIA representatives in the aftermath of the grand prix where the FIA noted that while this is the norm, it had created a “dangerous situation”.

Motorsport’s governing body is now set to revise their late-race procedures when it comes to setting up the podium.

“We considered that it was fortunate that there were no serious consequences on account of what happened,” read a statement from the stewards.

“We stressed that the requirements of ensuring a safe and orderly event are paramount. This was acknowledged by the FIA team.

“We walked through the relevant procedures and protocol with the FIA representatives in detail and required them to take immediate steps to reconsider these procedures and protocols with the relevant stakeholders (including FOM, the teams, and the FIA) to ensure that this situation does not occur again.

“The FIA representatives expressed their regret at what happened and assured us that they would do so in time for the next event.”