Esteban Ocon has explained the circumstances surrounding his near miss with Lewis Hamilton in the pit lane during the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
The Frenchman finished 11th on the road but was demoted to 14th, just behind Hamilton, after receiving a five-second time penalty for the incident at his sole pit-stop.
Between laps 18 and 20 of 63, the pit lane was a flurry of activity as almost the entire field stopped to change from intermediate to medium slick tyres as the track dried out following a wet start.
Alpine released Ocon unsafely, right into the path of Hamilton who nearly hit the pit wall in trying to avoid him. The cars were side by side along the pit lane until Ocon edged ahead, and remained in front of the Mercedes for the remainder of the race with Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly eventually separating them on the road.
Last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix winner has said in mitigation that another team, namely AlphaTauri, also played a part in the hairy moment between he and the seven-time former World Champion – because they left an air line in his path having just had Yuki Tsunoda in for his pit-stop.
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“It’s a little bit frustrating, for sure,” Ocon told Motorsport.com. “We finished P11 and of course with that unsafe release, five seconds, that hurt our position. But I think what hurt is really the tube that was left quite almost at the fast lane.
“I had to squeeze Lewis because of that tube that was hanging. I need to re-watch the images, but that’s my initial feeling without re-watching the images.
“Otherwise, I think there would have been space for both of us. We didn’t touch – that was all okay.”
Asked whether he knew Hamilton was there, Ocon said: “I was aware when I had to avoid the tube, and then I saw he was there.
“It’s tight, but of course it’s not safe to be that close to another car, that’s clear. So I think in the end I think what made it look worse is the tube.”
It was a bad weekend all round for Alpine because Fernando Alonso also failed to score points, having to retire early after being hit side-on by Mick Schumacher which knocked a sizeable hole in the bodywork.
At least Ocon will receive the floor upgrade at the next race in Miami that Alonso had at Imola.
“I think it was a missed opportunity for us this weekend,” added the 25-year-old. “I think it’s still possible to put both cars into the top 10 once we both have this performance upgrade.
“I look forward to test the new performance part Fernando had this weekend. I think it seems to be a good gain, from what the team is looking at.”
Another missed opportunity for Alonso and Alpine
A struggle once again for Alpine on Sunday, as Esteban Ocon came home outside the points, and Fernando Alonso not even finishing.