Qualifying 11th in Portugal, Esteban Ocon talked about the expectations from the race …
Q: It is the first time since the Italian Grand Prix that you did not qualify for the final …
Esteban Ocon: Yesterday and today it was not without problems, it was not possible to find an approach to rubber and to properly adjust the balance. The rear of the car is unstable throughout the weekend. This is our main problem on this track – the team has partially solved it, but this is not enough.
The plus is that I start not so far from the top ten and can choose the tires for the first segment. Besides, it might rain tomorrow, so anything is possible. But today we have more problems than in previous races.
Q: Are you surprised that at the end of the second part of qualification, Daniel drove past, and then his car turned around, and he flew into the gravel. Did you see him coming?
Esteban Ocon: I knew he was coming. I gave him part of the track, leaving a lot of space. I myself lost control of the car on the previous lap. During that attempt, the wind rose – a gust of wind interfered with Daniel just like me on the previous lap.
Q: You are closing the gap with your partner in qualifications: are you happy with the progress?
Esteban Ocon: I am pleased with my speed in several previous Grand Prix. It’s a little offensive that the balance of power does not change: at the Nürburgring, I was 13 hundredths of a second short, but here one tenth. Everything can turn out one way or another, but I am much more satisfied with the work of my team. We understand what is needed in this or that weekend, and are progressing – everything is much better than in several previous races. We need to continue in the same spirit.
Q: There are rumors about the future of George Russell: next year he may be left without a contract. Do you remember how in 2018 you yourself were left without a contract? Is it difficult to miss a season and watch Formula 1 from the outside?
Esteban Ocon: Hard. But I just read the press and don’t know what’s going on inside the team. I hope George will remain in Formula 1. He plays well in Williams, does everything he can. It’s not fair if he’s not on the grid next year. But this is Formula 1 – sometimes it is brutal. I realized this at the end of 2018. I hope George escapes this fate.
Question: What do you think about keeping track boundaries? Yesterday the FIA canceled 125 laps, and during the 24 Hours of Spa there was no talk of keeping track of the track …
Esteban Ocon: Difficult question. He worries all of us, and we discuss it with the FIA. The best solution is to build a track where you could waste time if you go outside of it. Thus, we would be forced to comply with the boundaries of the route. But I do not know what can be done for this.
This is a difficult moment. A gravel trap would work great on a Formula 1 race weekend, but it would get in the way for the rest of the time. If, during a track day with ordinary cars, someone got stuck in gravel, he would not like it. For track days, asphalt is better – in this case, it is possible to return to the track.
I think it’s better to put something that would make us slow down. It should not be a curb, but grass, gravel or some kind of bumpy surface – something that would make us stay on the track.
I have seen several pictures of the 24 Hours of Spa as the cars drove far off the track in the last chicane. The current version works well. Driving a little off the track is unpleasant, but the best thing to do in this situation.
Question: Will there be overtaking tomorrow? And the second question: what do you think of the new pit lane exit? It was slightly changed after Friday’s training, but there are still concerns that cars will return to traffic in the race …
Esteban Ocon: I hope that we will be able to get ahead of several cars, because our starting positions do not reflect our speed. My goal is to earn points.
As for the exit from the pit lane, the line was slightly moved – it became more convenient, but it is still very narrow. If you are fighting with an opponent, and at that moment someone leaves the pit lane, then it will be difficult to maintain the position.
Q: Returning to the conversation about George Russell, how important was the support of Mercedes during the season skip to you? What role will this support play for George?
Esteban Ocon: It is very important. I mean I wasn’t here without Mercedes. They have supported me ever since I performed in the youth series.
Let’s not say that George will be left without a contract. I don’t know what will happen, but judging by his performances, he should be on the grid next year.