Gritty Ocon delivers first point to Alpine after intense Miami GP

© XPB 

Esteban Ocon’s tenacious efforts in last weekend’s Miami Grand Prix secured a crucial 10th place finish that finally put the Frenchman and Alpine on F1’s 2024 championship board.

Ocon and teammate Pierre Gasly started the race from the back of the midfield, fiercely battling each other wheel-to-wheel – and nearly clashing – in the opening lap of the race.

While Gasly initially held the upper hand, Ocon's strategic gamble paid off later in the race. A well-timed pit stop under a Virtual Safety Car allowed him to jump ahead and claim P10 and the final point on offer, just one second ahead of Haas’ Nico Hulkenberg.

The elation was evident in Ocon's post-race comments.

"What a race!" exclaimed the 24-year-old, acknowledging the intense effort required throughout. “110 per cent intensity the whole way through – every lap was a massive push.

"We can't be 100 per cent satisfied because it's just one point. We need to keep doing these baby steps forward but, looking at where we were in Bahrain [17th and 18th], well done to the team for keeping on the belief, keeping the motivation going and improving the car step by step, because today finally we come out of a weekend with some reward.”

Ocon's action-packed Miami afternoon wasn't limited to going wheel-to-wheel with Gasly. The latter stages of the race saw him locked in another close battle, this time with his former Alpine teammate Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin.

It was pointed out to the Frenchman that his sparing with the Spaniard was one of his first upper mid-field fights of the 2024 season.

“Yeah, exactly! One of the first times this year we could fight. We came 11th in Shanghai, it was not quite in the points.

“But whatever all the people say, I enjoy a lot the fights with Fernando, I always did. I know how far I can push it with him, I know how far we can go side-by-side.

“I ran out of battery, that’s what I told him and that’s why he couldn’t pass me so quickly! But yeah, well done to him, it’s been a great fight and I hope I can have many more in the future with him.”

Gasly, meanwhile, crossed the checkered flag in 12th position after his race took a strategic turn for the worse due to the VSC and Safety Car periods.

“It was pretty intense. [I] didn’t get much space through [Turns] 2 and 3, so unfortunately I had to run wide there but managed to get him back after that.

Looking back on his early battle with Ocon, Gasly admitted that it had been a “pretty intense fight”.

“There [were] great battles,” he said. “After that I think we did a very good race as a team, I’m happy.

“Obviously gutted about that Virtual Safety Car, we had a strategy with the leading car to pit early and the trailing car to go long and try to catch the Safety Car, and yeah, this is what happened so unfortunately the coins fell on the wrong side for me today.

“But for the team it’s a point, fantastic effort. It just shows we are making steps forward, making good progress.

“I think it’s going to be a great source of motivation. Unfortunately, nothing we could have controlled there, but hopefully the luck will come our way next time.”

Since kicking off its campaign in Bahrain two months ago with a significantly overweight car lacking pace, Alpine has not only slimmed down its A524, it has also fast-tracked its development programme.

A heavily revised floor was introduced in China for Ocon while Gasly’s car was brought up to date in Miami.

“I must say, it does feel like we can be a bit more in the fight,” said the ‘Gasman’. “We have a bit more control over the race and what happens.

“I was able to pull some great moves, even on Fernando at the start of the race. There were some good fights out there so, yeah, we’ll keep improving, but overall we’re going in the right direction.”

Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter