Go with the flow
It was a disappointing Sunday for Esteban Ocon at Marina Bay with an unfortunate retirement whilst in a promising position in the Singapore Grand Prix. Now Esteban heads to Japan, his favourite circuit of the year, as he looks ahead to taking on the fast and flowing Suzuka Circuit.
It was not the way you wanted to end your birthday last Sunday, how do you reflect on your Singapore weekend?
I am still disappointed in how Sunday’s race concluded but I am already looking forward to bouncing back in Suzuka. I think before the unfortunate retirement it is fair to say we were having a strong weekend. I felt comfortable in the car since Friday and we built up well to Qualifying, making it into Q3. The race was also well executed, we were strong throughout and both cars were on for some solid and deserved points. There are many positives to take from the weekend, and we are motivated to carry this momentum into Japan and come away with both cars in the top ten.
What is yours, and the team’s, mindset going into the last quarter of the season?
The next few weeks will be very intense with many races to come. It is important that we stay focused, keep our heads down and work together to finish the season strongly with some consistent performances. We have the mindset of taking it race by race and leaving no stone unturned. There has definitely been some ups and downs this season. We have to keep working on finding consistency, maximise our package every weekend, and take the opportunities with both hands when they are presented to us.
Suzuka is up next, what is it about this circuit that makes it so popular?
I absolutely love Suzuka and, for me, it is one of the highlights of the season. This track has such a nice flow to it, and it is such a pleasure driving there. In the past, we’ve seen that overtaking is not always easy compared to other tracks, but the racing is always good. Us drivers always need to quickly find a rhythm around there, especially through the Sector 1 Esses. Once you’ve found that, the lap time will improve, and it becomes a really fun circuit to drive. I had a great result here last year with a strong fourth place and I can’t wait to race in front of the passionate Japanese fans who always make it such an amazing experience to come here.
Pierre Gasly returned to the points in Singapore after climbing six places from twelfth on the grid to sixth at the chequered flag. Pierre returns to Japan this week, a place he relishes and knows well from his Super Formula days in 2017. The Frenchman reflects on Singapore and looks ahead to driving the immense Suzuka Circuit.
You were back in the points in Singapore, how was the race?
I felt very satisfied after the race, even if a little drained from the physical demands! I think sixth was a superb result and the best we could have achieved. We maximised the package, stayed out of trouble, made some good overtakes at crucial times and, in the end, with a little bit of fortune after George’s [Russell] last lap crash, came away with a great reward. It was an interesting race with such extreme tyre management from pretty much everyone and quite an exciting final few laps up and down the grid. I enjoyed racing on the limit and hopefully that kind of spectacle can continue.
What are you aiming to improve in Japan?
We need to start the race weekend in a stronger position. We tried a lot of things in Practice on car set-up and I did not enter Saturday completely comfortable with the car and that was reflected in how our Qualifying played out. We just lacked a tenth or two which would have put us in Q3 and in a much better position for the race. We did make some good steps forwards, the car on Sunday felt good and we just have to keep working to find more performance to fight those in front of us.
Suzuka is a circuit you know well from your Super Formula days, why is it a track you enjoy?
Suzuka is one of my favourite tracks on the calendar, so I really hope we can go there and have a great performance. It’s a circuit all of us drivers love as it’s fast, has some challenging corner combinations and usually provides good racing. Japan is a very special place for me from my Super Formula days as I spent a lot of time in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya during my season back in 2017. I remember my first event at Suzuka and being completely blown away by the volume of support from the fans. It’s incredible, so special and warming and every year we are there for Formula 1 it is the same. I love the support, I’m so thankful for it and I can’t wait to experience it again this weekend where I aim to make it back-to-back points on track.
Japanese Grand Prix Factfile
Drivers/Team Facts and Stats:
• Both Esteban and Pierre have a 100% finish rate at the Japanese Grand Prix
• Esteban has never been out-qualified by a teammate at Suzuka International Racing Course, recording his best qualifying result of fifth at last year’s Grand Prix. He went on to secure his best finish at the track, finishing the race in fourth
• Pierre recorded his best result at the circuit in 2019 when he scored his first points in the Japanese Grand Prix with a seventh-place finish
• Suzuka International Racing Course features the only figure of eight circuit on the Formula 1 calendar
• Suzuka International Racing Course has hosted all but four Japanese Grands Prix since the event joined the Formula 1 calendar in 1976. The 1976 and 1977, Japanese Grands Prix were held at Fuji Speedway before the event took a 10-year break from featuring on the F1 calendar. Returning in 1987 at Suzuka International Racing Course, the Japanese Grand Prix was then held at Fuji Speedway twice more in 2007 and 2008
• Renault-powered cars have 128 starts at Suzuka International Racing Course, achieving 10 wins, 29 podiums, 10 poles, 12 fastest laps and 499 points
Further Facts and Stats:
• The Enstone team clinched its first Constructors’ Championship at Suzuka in 1995 when Michael Schumacher won the race with Benetton teammate Johnny Herbert finishing third
• Only four Japanese Grands Prix at Suzuka have been won from outside the top four on the starting grid. The Enstone team have been responsible for three of them – Alessandro Nannini from sixth in 1989, Nelson Piquet from sixth in 1990 and Fernando Alonso from fifth in 2006
• Esteban has been one of the best starters in F1 recently, gaining positions on the opening lap in seven of the last nine Grands Prix
• The Alpine teammates are among the most evenly-matched in qualifying this season, with Pierre currently leading Esteban 8-7 in their qualifying head-to-head
• Over the past three Grands Prix, Pierre has gained 17 positions over his starting place, including his sixth place finish from 12th on the grid in Singapore, and his third place finish from 12th on the grid at Circuit Zandvoort
• Pierre finished sixth at the Singapore Grand Prix, meaning his three best results of the season have come in the last four race weekends