Esteban Ocon predicts ‘stupid’ grid position penalties will continue throughout F1 2023 season
Esteban Ocon was the first driver to fall foul of the FIA’s strict stance on grid positioning in F1 2023, Fernando Alonso the second, and Ocon believes they will not be the last.
It was at the season opener in Bahrain where a nightmare race for Ocon began when his front-right tyre was not within the defined lines of his grid box, thus picking up a five-second penalty.
He later received another 10 seconds for not serving that penalty correctly, and a further five seconds later on for speeding in the pit lane.
And at the second round in Saudi Arabia it was Alonso’s turn to upset the stewards with his grid positioning, hit with a five-second time penalty for being too far over to the left of his box.
Ocon called the penalties for himself and Alonso “stupid”, but if the FIA’s stance stays the same, then he expects such penalties to continue being dished out because it is extremely hard in these “big cars” to clearly see the lines.
“It seems like a stupid penalty that we get there,” Ocon told Channel 4. “But it’s not as easy as it looks to park the car in the right place, especially with these big cars, how low we are sitting.
“I honestly didn’t know if I was in the box or not in that race either, so I was a bit shaking, but honestly it’s very, very hard, and all the margins are nothing basically.
“That’s the rule now and we need to be more cautious with everything we do. It’s the same in the pit lane, it’s the same when you box and when you serve the penalty and we’ve paid the price in Bahrain, somebody else paid the price today, I don’t think that’s the end of the story.”
Aston Martin ambassador Pedro de la Rosa said that if a driver of Alonso’s calibre is making this mistake, then it must be very difficult to position these cars correctly in the grid box.
He also made it clear that the Aston Martin driver, who took P1 from polesitter Sergio Perez at the start, did not get his grid positioning wrong on purpose looking for a competitive advantage.
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“When a guy of the talent of Fernando makes a mistake like that, it’s because it’s not easy,” said De La Rosa on the F1 Nation podcast.
“I think there’s some contributors to that. He’s one of the guys that is sitting lowest in the car, so it’s even more difficult.
“I think what you’re looking at the most and trying is not to go any further from the yellow line, and sometimes you forget positioning the car to the side properly on the box, and I think that’s what he was focusing on, he was focusing on the yellow line, making sure he wasn’t going too further away and he missed the side, he was not perfectly straight.
“How difficult it is? Well, it must be very difficult because if Fernando got it wrong, imagine the rest.
“It was not on purpose, he was not trying to place the car a few inches to the left to get better grip, there was nothing of that. It was just a blind positioning of the car too much to the left.”