Alpine’s Esteban Ocon has received an apology from the FIA and Formula 1 after his frightening pitlane incident in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Ocon had committed to an unusual strategy during last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, taking on the Hard compound Pirellis and running long to see whether he got lucky with the timing of a Safety Car or a red flag.
Neither materialised and, with Haas having tried a similar strategy with Nico Hulkenberg, both drivers needed to make an obligatory pitstop, as per regulation, before the chequered flag. With two laps to go, Hulkenberg dived in, with Ocon following suit a lap later.
However, while Hulkenberg’s stop went without incident, the FIA parc ferme officials appeared unaware that Ocon was obliged to make his mandatory stop and had begun cordoning off the pitlane and allowing photographers to start assuming their positions for the post-race celebrations.
Ocon came barrelling into the pits, only to be faced with a wall of people who had to scurry hurriedly out of the way as the Alpine driver proceeded down the pitlane to make his stop as quickly as he could.
“It was definitely scary,” he told Sky Sports. “I don’t know why everyone was starting to prep the podium, we were still racing and there was all the time in the world to be doing so.
“It could have been a big, big issue for everyone there. I’m arriving at more than 300kph, leaving my braking as late as I can and they were just after the line as well so if I miss my braking point…
“I had to brake, I had to avoid and it was pretty scary. Luckily it was all good. I had no idea that they were there. I’ve never seen that before.”
The FIA issue an apology to Esteban Ocon
With the incident going out on the live-feed to the horror of viewers as Ocon entered the pits, the FIA immediately carried out an investigation and summoned the officials to Race Control in the hour after the chequered flag.
The governing body issued a statement shortly after to say: “We walked through the relevant procedures and protocol with the FIA representatives in detail and required them to take immediate steps to reconsider these procedures and protocols with the relevant stakeholders (including FOM, the teams, and the FIA) to ensure that this situation does not occur again.
“The FIA representatives expressed their regret at what happened and assured us that they would do so in time for the next event.”
Speaking to Sky Sports News in the build-up to the Miami Grand Prix, Ocon said he has received all the necessary reassurances to feel sure such an incident won’t occur again, having received an apology for the frightening incident.
“The FIA have apologised and Formula 1 – they assured us that this is not going to happen anymore,” he told Sky’s Craig Slater.
“You know, thank God nothing happened. So all good from now.”
Asked about the incident from a sporting perspective, given the incident could have cost Ocon significant time, or a position, had he been forced to slow more, Ocon said people being in the pitlane shouldn’t even be a consideration.
“I mean, we are racing at the time,” he said.
“It’s, of course, normal that there shouldn’t be anyone in the pit lane until we are [finished] racing like that.
“But, as I said, these things are normally not going to happen – the FIA have assured us that they are making sure, they are changing the protocols and making sure there’s nobody in the pitlane until the end. So I’m confident we’re not gonna see that anymore.”