Esteban Ocon: Cooling of red flag restarts means less midfield shock opportunities

Jamie Woodhouse
Esteban Ocon just ahead of Fernando Alonso. Hungaroring Alpine July 2022.

Esteban Ocon just ahead of Fernando Alonso during the Hungarian Grand Prix. Hungaroring July 2022.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon believes the now less generous use of red flags has reduced the chances of a shock result.

With the new structure of Race Control, headed by Niels Wittich and Eduardo Freitas who share the race director role, both are seemingly not as keen on using the red flags to create race restarts as their predecessor Michael Masi.

Such a scenario was present during Ocon’s best two results in 2021, those being his maiden victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix, while there were multiple race restarts in Saudi Arabia later that year as Ocon crossed the line P4.

The 2022 Italian Grand Prix finished behind the Safety Car after Daniel Ricciardo brought his McLaren to a halt, causing some frustration as the option to use the red flags, thus creating a dash to the finish line over a few laps, was snubbed.

Ocon does not think this change is for the worse, but what it does mean is that the finishing orders in his opinion are now more typical, with less potential for surprises. The fact that his Alpine team have not yet been on the podium in 2022 evidences that, Ocon believes.

“Formula 1 with no red flag restart, with different FIA decisions at times, gave less opportunities to do that this year,” Ocon told reporters at the Japanese GP.

“It’s more of a standard racing that we are going on, like it was in the past.

“There’s no criticism there but, from what we’ve seen from the previous years in 2020 and 2021, the red flag brought a lot of spice to the races and brought opportunity to the midfield teams to be able to score podiums and wins.

“I think this year hasn’t been the case because of that and because of more traditional races.”

Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso, Alpine on track. Belgium, August 2022.
Alpine drivers Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso together on track at Spa-Francorchamps. Belgium, August 2022.

Alpine’s absence from the podium so far in 2022 comes despite the fact that the team has taken a step forward, improving the A522 throughout the campaign to sit P4 in the Constructors’ standings with four races to go. Only McLaren, 13 points adrift, can realistically deny them that spot.

Ocon is not ruling out a top-three result in 2022, even if it has been made more difficult, but overall he is enjoying this season more anyway in a stronger Alpine.

“I definitely enjoy more this season,” he confirmed. “Because we are more capable, we are performing better. But yeah, it is true that it’s a bit less rewarding for us, as we are not to the top yet.

“It’s better to score more points in the championship, but I mean, a win and a podium…it is difficult. But I think now we are happy with where we are with the car. More happy than last year. So let’s stick to where we are.

“And it’s not finished the season, so hopefully we can get the podium.”

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