Esteban Ocon is optimistic that Alpine can emulate McLaren’s impressive rate of development in the foreseeable future.
Despite the undisputed dominance of Red Bull, there have been many interesting narratives across the F1 grid. Easily the most notable story from mid-season has been the resurgence of McLaren, whose rapid development has shocked the field.
Before the season began, team principal Andrea Stella admitted that the team had missed their targets over winter. However, the McLaren boss was clear that upgrades later in the season would rectify the situation.
In hindsight, the former Ferrari engineer’s forecasts were highly accurate.
This is relevant for a team like Alpine, who find themselves stuck in the midfield. After finishing last year 4th in the standings (unofficially ‘best of the rest’), the French outfit seemed well-positioned for a strong 2023. After all, the Enstone-based team are one of the few manufacturers in F1.
However, this year has seen two customer teams – Aston Martin and McLaren – comprehensively outdevelop them. Even after a quite disastrous series of upgrades for Aston Martin, the Brazilian GP saw the British outfit re-establish itself as a significantly stronger force than Alpine.
Combined with Alpine’s dismissal of team principal Otmar Szafnauer (the team is still operating with Bruno Famin as interim), 2023 has been a complicated season.
Despite all this, Esteban Ocon insists the team aren’t intimidated by the progress at McLaren:
“I think there’s no jealousy. No, like, – oh sh*t, they’ve done a really good job,” he told motorsportweek.
“To me, it’s more like – oh, they’ve done it, so it is possible.
“So fair play. Admiration for the work that they’ve done. And [it shows] it is possible to get out of the midfield, because they’ve done so.
“So why not us?”
In some ways, the 27-year-old’s optimism is more than reasonable. After all, Alpine has all the resources to become a front-runner in Formula 1.
However, some might be less enthusiastic about his forecast. After all, Alpine has been in the same position for so long. As mentioned previously, the team has failed to make a significant leap forward since returning to F1.
Spending the better part of a decade in the midfield isn’t necessarily going to inspire confidence. This isn’t to say Team Enstone can’t make that step in 2024 – but only the timing screens will prove if they can accomplish this.