A delighted Esteban Ocon was full of praise for the work of the Alpine team after he took the chequered flag in eighth place from a P16 start at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix – helping the French manufacturer extend their championship lead over McLaren in the process.
Ocon started the race well down the field after tangling with team mate Fernando Alonso in the Saturday Sprint, but made a solid start to the Grand Prix, making it up to seventh by the end of his first stint. He then made the switch from the softs to the medium tyres, getting up to fifth before making his final pit stop.
The French driver then made the switch back to the soft tyres for the final stint before the Safety Car restart – caused by Lando Norris stopping on track. He then overtook Sebastian Vettel for seventh before he lost the place to Alonso – who finished fifth – meaning he took the chequered flag in P8.
READ MORE: Alonso enjoys ‘perfect Sunday’ in Sao Paulo after storming from P17 to P5
Speaking after the race, Ocon said: “I think we did everything perfect today, in terms of extracting the maximum that we had in hand. It’s a great day for the team, obviously 14 points.
“I think Fernando did a very good race today. He benefited from the Safety Car. We did two different strategies but both of us drove a good [race]. I think today it’s been important that we got those points as the car was fast and that is the most important.”
‘We did everything perfect today’ says Ocon as Alpine pull further ahead of McLaren
With Norris and Daniel Ricciardo failing to finish the race, Alpine now have a 19-point lead over McLaren in the battle for fourth in the constructors’ championship and Ocon was delighted with the “cushion” his team built as they head to Abu Dhabi.
READ MORE: 5 Winners and 5 Losers from the Sao Paulo Grand Prix
“It’s a big cushion on the last race, we are going to get there feeling a bit more secure and that’s the most important,” said Ocon. “To get 14 points it’s huge over McLaren and we can be very happy, and I am very happy for the team.
“We knew we had to be at our best after [the Sprint] disappointment and that’s exactly what we did in the race. The season is not over, and we still have one more race to go. It’s going to be full push until the chequered flag in Abu Dhabi.”
Alpine Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer echoed Ocon’s sentiment, calling their performance in Brazil “fantastic” – although he insisted that the battle for fourth in the constructors’ standings is anything but over.
READ MORE: ‘I’m not here to let everyone past’ – Norris defends collision with Leclerc after ‘disappointing’ DNF in Sao Paulo
“If [the Sprint] was a low point in our season, today is certainly up there as a high,” said Szafnauer. “Congratulations to the entire team [at] both factories at Viry and Enstone [and] everyone trackside, and the drivers for a fantastic Sunday effort where we’ve scored 14 points and, importantly, extended our lead in fourth place in the constructors’ championship.
“The race was well executed with both drivers showing very strong race pace, which allowed them to close in on the top ten. The championship is not over yet until the chequered flag drops in Abu Dhabi. We will remain focused, do our normal preparation next weekend, and give it our best to have both cars finish the season as strongly as possible. We’re nearly home.”