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Esteban Ocon sends Fernando Alonso warning as Alpine star seeks to make Mercedes statement

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In his first season with the team, who were branded as Renault in 2020, Mercedes junior driver Ocon finished 12th but earned a career-high second-placed finish at the Sakhir Grand Prix.

The 24-year-old is highly rated by Mercedes and Toto Wolff admitted after his podium in Bahrain: “We know about Esteban’s talent. Sometimes you just have to give them time to untie the knot and they start to perform well. I’m curious now to see how things will continue from here.”

The Silver Arrows team principal has more recently admitted, with both Hamilton and Bottas out of contract later this year: “Esteban is in the second year of a two-year contract with Renault and Alpine F1, and George [Russell] is with Williams this year.

“So we have some options for 2022, but until then our full support goes to Valtteri and Lewis. We will evaluate in the middle of the year whether there will be a change in 2022. It is definitely too early now to talk about scenarios for 2022.”

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Ocon, who served Mercedes’ reserve driver in 2019, has two-time Formula One world champion Alonso, 39, for company at Alpine this year and getting better of the Spaniard on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the 23-race calendar would stand him in good stead in Wolff’s thinking.

The Frenchman was outqualified 15-2 by Daniel Ricciardo, now at McLaren, last year by an average margin of 0.362s while the Australian finished ahead in nine races to Ocon’s three. 

But the former F3 and GP3 Series champion is feeling ready for the year ahead against returning veteran Alonso, insisting he wants to start off strong in the Middle East later this month.

Previewing the upcoming 2021 season, which gets underway in Bahrain on March 28, Ocon said: “I aim to start stronger. I finished last season a lot stronger than how I started it. I want to start on that level straight away and find more improvements throughout the year.

“I don’t put too many specific targets for the year, but, initially, starting stronger on a personal level is the first aim.

“I’ve been preparing very well. I’ve been working at high altitude in the Pyrenees and that’s very good preparation. I arrived in early January and I’ve been building some strong results from my pre-season physical tests.

“For the moment, I’m in one of the best shapes I’ve been in for a long time. We’ve changed a few things in my development and that all seems to be working well.

“I’ve tried to keep my competitive edge going with some simulator practice on my home set-up. It’s good fun and keeps the routine going.”

Discussing his achievements last year, and Alonso’s Alpine arrival, Ocon continued: “Claiming a podium last season has done a lot of good things. Of course, standing on the podium in Formula One has always been one of my goals and dreams.

“I really wanted to get that at some point, so to do it last season was fantastic. Now we have ticked that box, that’s one thing done, but we want to have more of them and that’s very clear.

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“We know it’s going to be a very tight season as our competitors are going to be working hard. It’s going to be close, but we’re aiming for more good results this year.

“I’m very much looking forward to working with Fernando. It’s exciting to see how a two-time Formula One world champion works and to be teaming up with him is a privilege.

“I’m definitely looking forward as we’ll have a great collaboration. We already started to work together towards the end of the year and there’s going to be more of that in the coming days and weeks.

“It’s all positive and I look forward to hearing what he says about the car. I’m very excited. I think it’s great to see the changes in the team and seeing new colours is always exciting.

“I’ve already had my first outing as an Alpine driver at Rallye Monte-Carlo, which was a brilliant way to start the year.

“I have to say, I love the new colours and having the French flag on the car makes me very proud. It’s great, it’s exciting and I think it’s going to be a great season ahead.

“I definitely feel more prepared. Going into a second year with the team means we’re building from the already good working relationship we have and that’s very good.

“It’s going to be a different car but a lot of it is carried over from last year and we’ve already work on a lot of those things, which we already understand.

“Everything is a lot clearer for me than my first season. I aim to feel more comfortable straight away from the get-go.”



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