“I heard he was a tricky team-mate to work with, I heard he was playing tricks… the times I am having with Fernando are fantastic,” says F1’s newest race winner Esteban Ocon about his famous team-mate; Ocon ends the Enstone team’s long wait for another race win
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 02/08/21 10:34pm
Esteban Ocon described his unexpected first Formula 1 win as a “huge moment” in his career, while also praising legendary team-mate Fernando Alonso.
Ocon won an astonishing maiden Grand Prix on his 78th start from eighth on the grid, moving into second after the first-corner chaos and then taking the lead of the race after the bizarre restart when Lewis Hamilton was the only driver not to pit immediately for dry tyres.
The 24-year-old Frenchman then impressively held off Sebastian Vettel, the four-time world champion, despite the Aston Martin running within one and a half seconds of him for much of the remaining 65 laps.
“It’s a huge moment in my career but it’s a huge moment for all of us,” said Ocon, who signed a new three-year Alpine deal earlier this summer, to Sky Sports F1.
“I hope it’s the first win of many for Alpine.
“It’s the first win of the Renault Group since they’ve come back and also my first one.”
Although rebranded under the Alpine sportscar brand from this season, the team is owned by Renault and Ocon’s victory represents their first since returning to F1 as a team owner in 2016.
The company’s previous win in full control of a team was with Alonso in 2008, while the Enstone-based outfit’s last triumph came under the Lotus name for Kimi Raikkonen in 2013.
Esteban Ocon: The F1 story so far
|Championship best||8th, 2017|
|Teams raced for||Manor, Force India, Renault/Alpine|
Ocon, who was congratulated on social media by French president Emmanuel Macron after becoming his country’s 14th Grand Prix winner, said: “We have to do the same job whether we are at the front or at the back.
“I had some much harder races in the midfield pack, which were harder to manage with more pressures than this race. Seb was very close but when we are racing at the front you only have to look back, you don’t have to look in the front.
“We stayed calm, the team did perfect strategy calls, from the start to the pit to tell me how we are from the DRS to Seb.”
Ocon: Alonso nothing like people told me as a team-mate
While Ocon took the plaudits from the paddock for a measured drive amid concerted pressure from Vettel, the Frenchman himself reserved special praise for his team-mate, Alonso.
The Spaniard played a role in helping secure the team’s win by holding a charging Lewis Hamilton up for 10 laps, at a time when the Mercedes was on fresher tyres and had been lapping several seconds quicker than Ocon.
Hamilton eventually overtook Alonso, and then Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, but ran out of laps to move further forwards and finished just 2.7s behind Ocon.
“I told many different media about Fernando about what I heard before he came to the team,” said Ocon, partnered with Alonso for the first time this season after the two-time world champion returned to F1.
“We spoke about it together as well. I heard he was a tricky team-mate to work with, I heard he was playing tricks, he was not fair with the team-mates inside, he was ruthless.
“The times I am having with Fernando are fantastic. We are a great duo sharing information, pushing the team towards the same goal, which is winning in the future. That’s what we want to be.
“I’m proud to be working with him, it’s a privilege, he’s such a legend and I hope we can share together more podiums.”
Alonso picked up his younger team-mate to celebrate with him in parc ferme and told Sky Sports F1 afterwards: “I’m super, super happy. Not only for Esteban because it’s a day that he will never forget, the first victory, but for the guys.
“All the people in Enstone, in Viry [Alpine’s two F1 factories] they are working flat out and the results are not easy to come.
“We are in a very, very tough and competitive environment in Formula 1 so to have these kind of results is motivation for everybody.”
Ocon’s maiden victory at the Hungaroring came 18 years on from Alonso’s own breakthrough at the same venue and for the same team.
“It’s a lucky place for Renault and now Alpine,” the 40-year-old added with a smile. “So thanks Budapest, thanks Hungary!”