Esteban Ocon believes he is slowly building up his performances in qualifying as he gets to grips with the R.S.20.
The Frenchman returned to Formula 1 in 2020 with Renault, and having been forced to sit on the sidelines for a year, it was always going to take time for him to get back into the groove. Especially when his team-mate is seven-time race winner Daniel Ricciardo.
And even though Ocon had only out-qualified Ricciardo once this season in a wet qualifying session for the Styrian Grand Prix, he now feels that he is starting to chisel away at that deficit to the Aussie.
“It has been quite close in some events,” he told Motorsportweek.com.
“A bit less close [at others] and some others where we faced issues with the car and how comfortable I felt in it.
“It is true that is been difficult a bit this season and some of the aspects.
“[At Mugello] it was not the case. I felt very comfortable behind the wheel. We were matching the whole qualifying and it was going to be up to that last Q3 run.”
— Renault F1 Team (@RenaultF1Team) September 17, 2020
Ocon spun on his final Q3 lap at the Tuscan Grand Prix, and he revealed that Renault held “long discussions” with him over those qualifying struggles before the event.
And the Frenchman felt he made definite improvements at Mugello.
“It is definitely in terms of set-up and the choices we have made, and just for understanding what we needed from the car,” he agreed.
“That is definitely what we struggled on.
“There were also a few times where I was losing a lot of straight-line speed, so that lasted two or three runs, which made us lose time. We had long discussions and what we should do to improve that.
“[At Mugello] it has paid off because the performance was good. I’m very satisfied with the weekend.
“I think in terms of pace against Daniel I think we were matching all the way through the weekend in practice and in qualifying. So this is what I am going to look for in the future events.”
Ocon heads into the Russian Grand Prix P12 in the Drivers’ Championship, 23 points behind team-mate Ricciardo.
Renault meanwhile are only 23 points adrift of McLaren who sit P3 in the Constructors’ Championship.