Marcin Budkowski says Esteban Ocon’s recent struggles should not be put down to a lack of hard work on the driver’s part off the track.
After a promising start to the season in which he looked to have an early edge on team-mate Fernando Alonso, the Frenchman has gone right off the boil.
Ironically, the dip in form has coincided with Ocon being presented with a new three-year contract by Alpine. In the three races since then, he has failed to score a point with highest finishes of P14, while he failed to make it through to Q2 in both legs of the Austrian double-header.
The 24-year-old recently found himself having to answer questions about whether the new contract had altered his mindset, denying any complacency had set in as a consequence of it.
Alonso, meanwhile, has got his feet under the table nicely at Alpine now and has scored points in all of the last four grands prix.
Budkowski, the team’s executive director, thinks Ocon has been a victim of a very congested midfield pack in qualifying and said the driver had been working hard to see where he could improve in a direct comparison with Alonso.
“It’s difficult,” said Budkowski, quoted by AS. “The middle zone [of the pack] is very competitive, we see it every weekend and every tenth counts.
“Esteban was two tenths slower than Fernando in Q1 at the Styrian Grand Prix. It’s not much, but one of them got to Q3 and the other stayed in Q1.
“He [Ocon] worked a lot since then. He spent the week between races with the engineers looking at differences between Fernando’s style and his – and he was close.”
As for Alonso, Budkowski is happy with the progress he has made since returning to Formula 1 after two years away – and thinks he was not particularly rusty right from the get-go in any case.
“He was never far away,” said the 44-year-old Pole. “In Bahrain he got everything he had out of the car and put it in Q3. But you need to build the set-up, you need the confidence and you need to perform 100% on a very short lap.
“A driver like Fernando, despite his enormous experience, had to get used to dealing with tyre temperatures in traffic situations and other details that greatly influence qualifying. It takes time, but he’s got there.”