Ocon admits Alpine facing backmarker status in Bahrain

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Esteban Ocon has acknowledged the harsh reality that Alpine could find itself languishing at the back of the Formula 1 grid in the opening races of 2024.

The French outfit’s grim prospects come amidst concerns raised by the its car’s lackluster performance during pre-season testing last week at Sakhir.

Alpine endured a challenging first test, with their A524 car showcasing deficiencies in both handling and performance compared to their competitors.

But a closer look at the Enstone outfit’s long runs compared to its rivals suggested that its 2024 contender could be the slowest car on the grid in its current state.

While Ocon is prepared for the eventuality of Alpine starting its campaign on the back foot, he also emphasizes his determination to improve his and his team’s fortunes.

“If things don't go to plan, obviously yes I'm prepared for that,” he said on Wednesday in Bahrain. “But we haven't driven the car yet in full competition order.

“We don't know exactly. You guys [the media] are selling it [as] the worst. It is a possibility, because we haven't pulled it together with everyone else. But it's not over.

“There are still going to be things to play for this year. And I need to keep on pushing. Because if you start that low, and with how you guys are speaking, I can quit and just exit the paddock right now. But no, that's not who I am.”

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Last week, Alpine team boss Bruno Famin acknowledged his team’s current limitations, but insisted the French outfit must look beyond its initial races and prioritize long-term development over immediate results.

Addressing his team’s issues, Pierre Gasly agreed that Alpine must focus on the solutions that will allow it to eventually reach the targets that it has set.

“Some targets have been missed in terms of timeline, but it still doesn't mean that we can't achieve them at some point along the season,” he said.

“As a competitive team, no-one is happy having a challenging start. This wasn't the idea. But this is now the situation that we are in and we are facing it together as a team.

“We’ve got to look forward and come up with the solutions because we know we have some solutions. Whether it's short term or medium term, at the minute, that's all I'm thinking about.

“There is an explanation of why we are here. At the end of the day, what matters right now, as of today, is how fast we're going to be able to improve that car we have.”

A lack of downforce and excessive weight are cited as the main culprits for the A524’s depressed level of performance. But Ocon hinted at another “bigger” area on which the team must focus its attention.

“There is one bigger one than the others,” he said. “Most of the smaller problems we were able to fix in the three days of tests which has been good.

“So we had a good feeling over a lap in the car, which nice to drive, basically in terms of balance. But we've yes identified the issue clearly, so that's what we're going to be chasing.”

Ocon admitted that getting on top of its problems is “going to take time”.

“I'm sure there are quite a lot of things that we can still get better, but it will take time with the development of the car,” he said.

“At the end of the day you need the grip, you need the downforce. And we know that's what we are mainly missing at the minute.”

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