A photographer at the scene of Esteban Ocon’s near-miss in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix has criticised the media’s response, insisting the reaction to the incident has been overblown.
A number of people filtered into the pit lane as the race neared its conclusion in Baku, seemingly unaware that Alpine driver Ocon still had to undergo his mandatory stop having driven almost the entire race on a single set of hard tyres.
That led to a frightening incident as Ocon pulled into the pits at the end of the penultimate lap to find a wall of photographers and F1 officials gathering around the podium in advance of the post-race celebrations.
Ocon, who was classified 15th after starting the race from the pit lane, described the moment as “pretty scary” and admitted a “big, big issue” had been narrowly avoided.
However, photographer Evgeniy Safronov believes the incident was not nearly as dramatic as has been portrayed, claiming the media are merely looking to generate headlines in light of a largely uneventful race.
As per GrandPX.news, he said: “I was there.
“It’s a great example of when the race was not the best so we need to discuss something.
“And we need better headlines than all the ‘it could have ended in tragedy’ [stories].
“I’ll tell you what happened.
“This time the FIA gave the go-ahead a little earlier than usual. And it wasn’t just photographers but also officials.
“Yes, it was certainly dangerous.
“It shouldn’t have happened.
“But in the very, very last case, there was a person behind the wheel and his car had brakes.”
Likening the incident to a scene from the notoriously dangerous Group B era of rallying, Alpine sporting director Alan Permane agreed with the assessment that the situation was very much under control from Ocon’s perspective.
“Esteban’s doing 80kph so he can stop the car pretty quickly if he needs to,” he said per The Race. “So, whilst it was quite scary to look at, I’m sure he was in full control, and no one was in serious danger.
“The biggest problem is if they weren’t watching.
“But he’s not moving very quickly at that point.”
Meanwhile, Sky Sports F1 pit reporter Ted Kravitz, who watched with incredulity at the situation unfolded, was adamant that F1 “had a bit of a lucky escape” in Baku.