Esteban Ocon: rivals “in another category” to Alpine in Japan

Jaden Diaz
12 Apr, 2024

Esteban Ocon left the Japanese GP empty-handed once again despite an encouraging qualifying in Suzuka. The Frenchman managed to drag the A524 into Q2 on Saturday, a noteworthy achievement in arguably the worst car in F1. Unfortunately for Alpine, this somewhat promising result was followed by a race where both Ocon and Gasly went backwards.

The duo were comfortably the most overtaken drivers in Japan, perhaps a symbolic moment for Team Enstone. Part of the cause for this pace deficit was damage on lap one, with the Alpine pairing making contact and giving each other damage.

Whilst not race-ending, it complicated what was already an uphill battle. Alpine’s upgrades for round four of the season were relatively minor, as stressed by many of the team’s personnel. The new front wing and weight-reduction measures in Suzuka were never going to be game-changers.

Still, the Enstone-based team was in need of a boost. At least for now, there is uncertainty about how the team can recover their deficit to RB and Haas – not to mention the top five.

ALPINE RESPOND TO RIVAL IMPROVEMENTS

When discussing his afternoon with the media in Japan, Esteban Ocon was candid:

“I think we were not quick enough today. I think this weekend, we did a good step forward in qualifying.

“But in the race, that’s probably the first step backwards since Bahrain There’s some similarities between here and Bahrain, so we want to look at that…

“Today, I felt like I couldn’t fight. The other ones were in another category.”

Elsewhere on the grid, upgrades will be fitted by Alpine’s rivals. RB already brought a revised package in Japan, seemingly cementing the VCARB 01 as the sixth-fastest team. Tsunoda and Ricciardo qualified P10 and P11 on the grid, whilst Tsunoda claimed points on Sunday.

They aren’t the only team Alpine are worrying about, with Haas also introducing an update package in China. The VF-24 is already proving a competitive package and will have modifications to solidify this position.

In this climate, Alpine must learn quickly from difficult weekends like Japan and find solutions to develop across 2024.

SEGUICI SU

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