Alpine’s Esteban Ocon says the buzz around Formula 1 right now is fantastic, with even his friends who were not interested before now gripped.
Formula 1 is without doubt in a boom period off the back of a thrilling 2021 season, a campaign which earned itself the tag of being one of, if not the best which the series has produced.
Fan interest has rocketed, with Drive to Survive on Netflix helping to connect the sport with younger audiences, while F1’s president Stefano Domenicali said two billion people tuned in to watch the on-track action across the 2021 season.
It is no surprise then that Formula 1 is looking to take advantage of the increasing interest by expanding into new markets, or strengthening its involvement in existing ones.
And to see Formula 1 in such a strong position is exciting for Ocon.
“I think it’s fantastic how Formula 1 has developed,” he said, as per Motorsport-Total.com.
“There are things being tried, the races were interesting and there are definitely opportunities these days.
“It’s just crazy until the last lap. This last lap [of 2021] actually sums up the entire season well.
“Everyone is talking about Formula 1. Friends of mine weren’t really interested and are now fully involved. It’s great.”
In 2021 sprint qualifying was introduced for the first time, which saw a 100km sprint race take place on the Saturday to set the grid for the grand prix at Silverstone, Monza and Interlagos.
Traditional qualifying then took place on Friday, determining the starting order for the sprint.
Three race weekends under this format were held in 2021, which is set to expand to six for 2022, and Ocon is all for the “new excitement” which sprint qualifying created.
“It’s just cool to try something like that and have new excitement,” he said.
A tweak Ocon suggests though would be to the second practice session on the Saturday before the sprint – he is not the only one who felt that those 60 minutes were a waste, with the times often proving unrepresentative.
“The second practice session with all the long runs might not make that much sense,” he noted.
Formula 1 will introduce new regulations for the 2022 campaign, aiming to bunch up the pack and create closer racing with heavily revised regulations.
But Ocon explained that Formula 1 had already found success in making the race results less predictable, with Ocon himself joining Daniel Ricciardo is claiming a 2021 victory.
Ocon took the chequered flag in Hungary, while Ricciardo led home a McLaren one-two at Monza, with podium finishes also more spread out across the season rather than hoarded by the established top two of Mercedes and Red Bull.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was also a pole-sitter twice, while Lando Norris took pole in the McLaren at the Russian Grand Prix.
In total, 12 drivers from eight different teams took to the podium in 2021, a landscape much changed from a few years back when Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari were almost constantly accounting for the top three places.
“At that time, sixth place was like a victory because you never, never, had the opportunity to be on the podium or to be in the lead,” Ocon explained.
“That is fantastic and exactly what we want. Nobody would say that they are against it. That would be crazy.”
F1's development has brought a popularity boom
The last three years has seen F1 come into the mainstream.