Esteban Ocon estimated he cost Sergio Perez up to 2.5 seconds as he played his part in helping team-mate Fernando Alonso to a podium finish in Qatar.
Alonso urged his team-mate to “defend like a lion” as he tried his damnedest to make a one-stop strategy work at a brutal Losail International circuit and Ocon duly obliged, returning the favour after the two-time World Champion helped cause enough disruption to see Ocon win the Hungarian Grand Prix back in August.
The Spaniard, who ended a seven-year wait to return to the podium in Formula 1, needed Ocon to life difficult for the advancing Perez in the Red Bull, who was desperately trying to make up places following a poor qualifying and a less than optimal race strategy.
Ocon was more than happy to help.
— Alpine F1 Team (@AlpineF1Team) November 22, 2021
“He [Alonso] was wanting me to give back what he gave to me in Hungary,” Ocon told Sky F1 when Alonso’s radio message was played back to him.
“I tried to do the best that I could against Perez and I made him lose a good two, two-and-a-half seconds I think in that defence.
“But the thing is the straights are longer here than in Budapest unfortunately so it was not as easy to defend against a Red Bull with new tyres.
It was great day overall for Alpine in Qatar as Alonso and Ocon combined to add 25 points to the team’s total and keep AlphaTauri at bay in their fight for P5 in the Constructors’ Championship.
Ocon compared the result to as good as a race win and hopes the team can continue to enjoy many more good memories together.
“It was a fantastic day and a very positive weekend,” Ocon summarised.
“It was a mega drive from Fernando [Alonso] and he was outstanding in both qualifying and the race. This feels like a win for us.
“We scored 25 points and are back in the lead, in front of AlphaTauri, and that is very crucial for us. We can be more than proud and we were all celebrating in front of the podium.
“It’s like I was up there also. We are creating these opportunities and we hope to have many more.”
Ocon is P11 in the Drivers’ Championship, with Alonso 17 points ahead in P10.
Alonso shows form is temporary, class is permanent
Fernando Alonso was finally back on the podium after a long seven years.