Home race in France a dream come true for Ocon

Esteban Ocon (FRA), Sahara Force India F1 Team.
© XPB 

Esteban Ocon can hardly wait to get out on track on Friday morning at the Circuit Paul Ricard.

“It’s been my dream for years to be racing in front of my home crowd," the Force India driver admitted. "And now I will finally experience the fantastic feeling of a home Grand Prix!

"When the race was announced, it was the best news from the whole of last year," he said. "I am very proud of the work of all the people involved in bringing the French Grand Prix back, and I hope the event will be a success.

"I’m really looking forward to it," he added.

This week's race will be the first time the French Grand Prix has been on the Formula 1 calendar in a decade. The last race in 2008 was held at Magny-Cours, with Felipe Massa winning for Ferrari.

But you have to go back even further to the last time that F1 cars raced at Paul Ricard. That was in 1990, where home favourite Alain Prost thrilled the crowd with victory for the scuderia.

It means that none of the current field of Grand Prix drivers have previously raced at the circuit in Formula 1 hardware. However, a number have experience in other championships.

“I did race at Paul Ricard early in my career," recalled Ocon. "It was actually where I had my first victory in single seaters in 2013, so I have some fantastic memories of the place.

"I hope we can add some more success this weekend!

"Having been there in the junior categories makes getting used to a new track in a Formula 1 car much easier," he predicted. "I think I will find my rhythm quite quickly.

"It’s a track which will be new for everyone and we’re usually good at finding a set-up quickly, so I’m not too worried."

Ocon isn't the only French driver who will be lining up on the grid this Sunday. There's also Haas' Romain Grosjean, and Pierre Gasly at Toro Rosso. Sauber's Monegasque rookie Charles Leclerc can also expect a lot of home support from the French crowds.

It means that all of them will be at the centre of a high level of attention from press and fans alike.

“It’s going to be a busy week for me," Ocon acknowledged. "But once I get in the car, it’s like any other race weekend and the focus needs to be on the track.”

“In the last few races in Monaco and Canada we’ve been showing good pace so I hope we can be strong in France as well.

"On paper, the track should suit us, with a long straight and some slow corners where we can use our car’s mechanical grip really well."

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