Esteban Ocon has emphasized the importance of Alpine’s level of performance mid-season rather than at its starting point.
Like his teammate Pierre Gasly, Ocon is bracing for a challenging entry into its 2024 F1 campaign, a cautious approach rooted in the team's drastic overhaul of the Enstone squad’s A524.
After finishing a disappointing sixth in F1’s 2023 Constructors' Championship, Alpine recognized they had hit a performance plateau with their previous car.
This realization sparked a dramatic shift, leading to the creation of its new design which technical director Matt Harman describes as a "front to back” rebuild compared to its predecessor with the aim of producing a car with a broader performance window and greater development potential.
However, as Alpine works to understand and get to grips with its new machine, early races could equate to an uphill battle for the French outfit.
“It is a possible scenario because we have a new concept,” Ocon admitted, speaking at the A524’s presentation at Enstone earlier this week.
“The car is totally new and when you usually do that you normally take a step back.
“I don’t say that this is the case because we haven’t put the car down yet but the plan is to improve it through the year and get more progress the more that we go through the laps.
“And it’s gonna be crucial obviously to get a good feedback straight away to know where we have to improve, to see if the concept choices that we took are the right ones.
“But it’s gonna be an interesting year on that side and it’s not necessarily that crucial where we start but it’s gonna be where we are mid-season.”
While expecting a potentially challenging start to the season due to the A524’s “aggressive concept”, Ocon remains optimistic about its long-term potential.
“I think my thoughts are we have to be humble,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a very aggressive concept that we are going into, taking a new car, changing completely the approach, because we thought we were maximising the old concept.
“But this year it’s about understanding early on where we are exactly, who’s where, [and] who have improved more.
“So it doesn’t really matter where we start, and there is a scenario where it could be tricky where we start.
“But the importance is going to be, and that’s what we have in place, bring the updates, understand the car and get it to where it should be because that should be a better concept, definitely with what we decided to take.
“So I can’t wait to put it on track, understand and hopefully get a good feeling driving it, being happy with the balance and have that smile that I had with many cars in the end.”
Ocon gave a superficial run-down of what Alpine is attempting to achieve with its radical design, while also fully supporting the path followed by Alpine.
“The new concept is basically a different position with all the suspension that is very visual and we are trying to get more flow through the car with all of that and to gain grip also at low speed with the car,” he explained.
“And with that comes a lot of little details that I don’t necessarily want to go through but better ride, better traction, all of these things. So on paper that’s what we should get on track.”
“I think if we decided to take that concept, it means there’s more potential than the other one,” he highlighted. “And early on in Bahrain, it’s going to be crucial to get the right feedback straight away to the team, analyse and get ready for the first couple of races.
“We need to see a bit more long-term here, more than straight away short-term because it’s like a brand new car.”