Esteban Ocon sees such a good evolution in the new Alpine A523 compared to last year that the A522 now reminds him of a toy. That tells the Frenchman to the Dutch branch of Motorsport.com. The 26-year-old is referring to the improvements that have been made for 2023.
“It’s a good evolution compared to last year,” opens Ocon, who calls himself a very mechanical boy. “I like to get close to the body and close to the suspension and study how parts are made. To be honest, the 2022 car looks a bit like a toy compared to what we have now. The level of detail and how beautifully the parts are made in terms of weight savings and solutions in the cockpit; everything looks like a real race car.’
Ocon is therefore very impressed with his new battle weapon. ‘The details, how the body is put together and how all the parts are made. He is very beautiful. First of all, this is good for reliability. Secondly, it means that the team has made progress again. We already made a step from ’21 to ’22 and now it’s another huge step. We’ll see if that translates into performance.’
Ocon sets his sights on podiums with Alpine
Whether it translates to performance depends on what the A523 can fight for. Ocon hopes that podium places are just a little bit more ahead than in 2022. ‘We finished fourth in Japan and fifth at the Red Bull Ring. Not much was missing. With a worse car in 2021 we won a race and finished third once, so anything is possible. But the gap from fourth to third is huge,” he knows all too well.
The difference with the number three was hundreds of points, but Ocon still has high expectations. “Getting fourth and trying to get much closer to number three is a whole other dimension. You get into the top five, on podiums. So obviously it’s a very lofty goal that we set for ourselves. But we have to do that. We are very ambitious and combative, this is what we want to achieve. Anything can happen in F1 and we hope there will be surprises.”
But how realistic a surprise like a victory is, Ocon dare not say. “Realistically, I don’t think we should be gearing up for that. Of course, if the car performs super in Bahrain I can say yes, but at the moment I don’t think it’s realistic. But we’ll see. There can be surprises in F1, we’ve seen that in the past. For example, the Brawn was not expected to be a winning car in 2009.”