2021 Esteban Ocon – Faced with a very gifted Alonso in politics, it looks just as complicated.
The big question is the extent of the headway the 24-year-old has made and whether it leaves him in a strong enough position to handle new team-mate Fernando Alonso in the rebranded Alpine team in 2021.
Ocon’s second place, which came in his 66th start, is the high point of a season during which he has struggled to match Ricciardo. He’s only beaten his team-mate in qualifying once, with a superb performance in the wet in Styria, and this was one of only three races where Ocon has finished ahead in the race where both Renaults have made the chequered flag.
Hope momentum from Sakhir GP podium enables Esteban Ocon to deliver more, says Abiteboul
Ocon returned to Formula 1 in 2020 with Renault after a year out, which he spent as Mercedes’ test and reserve driver, following spells at Manor and Force India.
Ocon was shaded for most of the year by team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, only out-qualifying the Australian in dry conditions once, at the season-ending Abu Dhabi round.
Ocon scored only 62 points to the 119 amassed by McLaren-bound Ricciardo and finished seven positions behind his team-mate in the championship.
“We have seen with Daniel the benefit of the second year versus the first year,” said Abiteboul.
“I hope that the momentum from the podium that he had will make him strong and able to deliver more than we have altogether in 2021.”
Ocon will be partnered by two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso at the team, with the Spaniard returning to Formula 1 after a two-year hiatus.
The squad, which finished fifth in the standings, has been rebranded to Alpine for 2021.
“We feel extremely comfortable with our line-up given the situation of the team [and] what it needs to achieve,” said Abiteboul.
“Fernando knows that the only way to win is to plan in advance and to build in advance and 2021 being a particular year where we need to balance our effort between ’21 and ’22.
“We have all together, with Fernando, clearly an eye on ’22 and he understands that and he will be completely part of that process and that journey.”
What is most encouraging is a driver who was justifiably touted as a future Mercedes driver and who built on his formidable junior reputation with two fine seasons at Racing Point, where he gradually established himself as the stronger qualifier and became ever-more effective in the race up against team-mate Sergio Perez, is still on an upward curve.
There’s still a step to be made, but Ocon has been shuffling closer and closer to Ricciardo over the season 2020. He has the advantage of having his feet under the table with the team, and can surely take another step again at the start of 2021.
Whether it will be enough to compare well to Alonso is the big question. But Ocon is a high-quality driver who is working his way back to his best – and isn’t quite there yet.
The Frenchman has faced probably two of the current best drivers in F1 in Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo as teammates. But the job does not get easier with Alonso now serving as Ocon’s teammate at Alpine in 2021.
With the team aiming to fight for P3 in the Constructors’ standings, Alpine will need both cars to be battling in the Top 10 positions as many times as possible. That said, Ocon definitely has to expect more from himself and believe he can produce better performances this season.
FORMULA 1 2021 SAISON WILL BE THE TOUGHEST CHALLENGE FOR ESTEBAN OCON FORMULA 1 2021 SAISON WILL BE THE TOUGHEST CHALLENGE FOR ESTEBAN OCON