Abiteboul: Ocon’s rise through field “quite something”

Cyril Abiteboul praised Esteban Ocon’s seventh place in the 70th Anniversary GP, Ocon making the one-stop strategy work in a race dominated by high tyre wear.

While Daniel Ricciardo struggled in the race from fifth on the grid, Ocon turned around a difficult qualifying round to finish seventh and ahead of midfield rivals McLaren.

Most drivers made two pitstops as the spectre of last week’s punctures dictated strategy, but Ocon managed his two sets of tyres well to make the one-stop work, alongside Charles Leclerc and Kimi Raikkonen who benefitted from similar strategy.

Abiteboul said: “Given Esteban’s starting position, his race should be praised, gaining six places in a race like today in a very competitive field is quite something.

“He, and the team, made the one-stop work. It was perfectly executed by him, the pit-wall and the pit crew.”

Ocon added: “We just kept the tyres alive as best we could and managed to keep cars behind, so we’re very happy with the result.

“I don’t think we could have done much more from fourteenth on the grid. Our target is to qualify better – we have the pace for that.”

The team had high hopes after FP2, where Ricciardo was third on the qualifying sim runs, and qualifying itself where the Australian placed fifth.

However, he struggled on his second stint after a surprise decision by the team to put him onto another set of medium tyres and he then spun on lap 31 and finished 14th after three pit stops.

He was never in the battle for the top five though, after saying he thought he could go even faster than his FP2 run and enjoying the medium tyres he used in Q3.

After the race, he said: “Today was just one of those days where things got progressively worse and worse.

“It was going okay at the beginning, maintaining sixth and hanging on pace-wise to the cars ahead.”

Next week’s race is Spain (although there are concerns given the coronavirus situation there) and Renault predict the tyre wear issues will persist with heavy corner loads and high temperatures.

Abiteboul added: “We need to assess that second stint and take that on board for upcoming races.

“Barcelona will undoubtedly see a repeat of hot conditions with similar high energy on the tyres from the high-speed corners.

“We’ve made a positive step in competitiveness in qualifying. We must confirm it next weekend and get on top of this counter-performance on the medium compound.”