Returning to F1 after a year on the sidelines, Esteban Ocon admits it took him a “bit more time” than he had expected to find his feet.
Dropped by Racing Point after the 2018 season in favour of signing team owner Lawrence Stroll’s son, Lance, Ocon spent a year as Mercedes’ reserve driver.
Determined to get back on the grid, he was released from his Mercedes contract, signing with Renault for this year’s championship.
The results, though, have not been what Ocon nor Renault dreamed of.
Soundly beaten by his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who has two podium finishes, Ocon’s best showing was his P5 at the Belgian Grand Prix.
This led to speculation that Pierre Gasly could be in line to replace him next season. That rumour was quashed when AlphaTauri announced they had re-signed the Italian GP winner for 2021.
Ocon admits it has taken him longer than expected to find his rhythm, not helped by Formula 1’s chaotic revised 2020 schedule.
“After my year out, I thought coming back it would take a little time for myself to get back into it,” he told Autosport, “to get integrated properly into the team and try and work the way I did in Force India.
“But it took a little bit more time, I think, than I thought.
“And you know, the way the season is condensed as well, you don’t have much time to reflect on the race – you go straight away into another one.
“That’s how it’s been with the triple headers.
“We didn’t have properly time to analyse everything and come back, and make it apply [to my performance] – we only had two days to get to it, and [then] straightaway get back to the fight.
“Recently, my performance has been better in qualifying – I’m closer to where I think I need to be.
“There’s still things that we can do better, but overall, I’m happier now at the end of the season than I was earlier. So, it’s a better step.”
We can't vouch for their pronunciation in Turkish but we can confirm that @OconEsteban & @danielricciardo are really looking forward to racing at Intercity Istanbul Park!#RSspirit @RenaultTurkey pic.twitter.com/bIlSef49qP
— Renault F1 Team (@RenaultF1Team) November 10, 2020
He does, however, feel as if he is finding his pace, saying his confidence has grown in recent weeks.
His results, though, have not been helped by three DNFs in five races.
“I think earlier in the year we were not understanding ourselves between my side of the garage and myself – just basically working together [we were] not as one, I would say,” he said.
“It’s been a lot better now, we’ve understood each other a lot better [lately].
“And, putting that on the set-up of the car, it’s a big step.
“It’s also more driving for me and more running [as the season has progressed] – I just feel a lot more comfortable overall. And basically it’s been better.”