Esteban Ocon felt the Belgian Grand Prix weekend was not only Alpine’s strongest of the 2022 Formula 1 season, but the best since he joined the team in its Renault guise in 2020.

Fernando Alonso was fifth, with Ocon finishing seventh despite starting 16th thanks to a back-of-the-grid penalty for power unit changes. However, he did set the fifth-fastest time in Q3, 1.5 seconds off Max Verstappen’s pole position.

ocon says spa was alpine’s best since he joined. is he right?

Alpine has had better weekends in Ocon’s time in terms of overall results, notably last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix where he won with Alonso fourth. However, that was thanks to circumstances, in particular the first-corner accidents, rather than outright pace.

Hungary 2021 is one of five weekends in Ocon’s three years with the team where it has scored more than the 16 points it managed at Spa, but in terms of the combination of how he felt in the car and performance he suspected this was the best thanks to a combination of its overall laptime and also strong straightline speed.

“It’s been our best weekend of the year so far,” he said when asked about his confidence in the car. “And probably since I joined the team.

“The update we brought here, how the car was performing…definitely there is no comparison to how we were even in Budapest.

“So very impressed. There’s still more tools for us to come, so that’s definitely giving us a boost of confidence for the rest of the year.”

Alpine’s update for Spa included modified floor fences and a tweak to the inner rear brake fairings, the latest in a sequences of improvements that have delivered the expected performance.

Overall, Alpine was comfortably the fastest of the midfield teams at Spa, with Ocon’s drive from 16th on the grid enlivened by two key moments. The first was getting ahead of Alex Albon’s Williams, which acted as a rolling roadblock for most of the race. This happened when Albon locked up and went wide at La Source, letting Ocon through.

ocon says spa was alpine’s best since he joined. is he right?

But the highlight came with his double overtake on Pierre Gasly and Sebastian Vettel, which gave him seventh place. This was his second double overtake of the race, having earlier jumped Daniel Ricciardo and Nicholas Latifi coming out of Blanchimont and through the chicane.

The pass on Gasly and Vettel happened on lap 35, just after Vettel overtook Gasly out of La Source. Ocon then passed Gasly and Vettel on the Kemmel Straight and into Les Combes, a move likened to Mika Hakkinen’s famous pass on Michael Schumacher in the 2000 Belgian Grand Prix.

Oct 09 : Bring Back V10s: Spa 2000 with Mika Hakkinen

Ocon felt Vettel made a mistake in passing Gasly before the DRS detection zone, which meant he was vulnerable on the straight.

“I was like, ‘The detection is there, and he’s passing Pierre too early because he’s not going to get the DRS’,” said Ocon.

ocon says spa was alpine’s best since he joined. is he right?

“And from there on I lifted the throttle a bit [at Eau Rouge], got myself a little bit of a gap to be able to use the straightline speed, and then the surprise was and the confirmation was that Pierre had DRS.

“I was able to go on the left side. Seb was very fair, honestly he could’ve closed a bit on the left but he didn’t do. And I managed to get Pierre around the outside of Turn 5.”

Ocon finished the race 2.3s behind Alonso, with Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc dropping in between them in the final classification thanks to his five-second pitlane speeding penalty.

Alonso was on hards in the final stint having made his final pitstop on lap 25 of 44, with Ocon stopping for mediums on lap 32. This allowed Ocon to catch Alonso at a second per lap before being told that “the cars will stay in the same position” when he was just over five seconds behind on lap 38.

Ocon heeded the message and his pace eased off, with team principal Otmar Szafnauer calling the instruction “logical” given there was no realistic target ahead of Alonso to attack.

ocon says spa was alpine’s best since he joined. is he right?

“To either swap them or let them race at that point makes no sense at all because you don’t gain any more points and you risk losing a bunch,” said Szafnauer when asked by The Race about the team order.

“I’m in favour, as you know over the years, of letting drivers race. That’s what it’s about, that’s what the fans want to see and we can’t forget about the fans.

“But when you get down to the last couple of laps in a race and there’s nothing to be gained from a team perspective, it’s a smart thing to do. And it’s exactly what we did.”

Alpine’s haul of 16 points, combined with McLaren’s failure to score, means it now has a 20-point advantage in the battle for fourth place in the constructors’ championship.

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