Esteban Ocon is targeting a third points finish in a row at this weekend's Australian Grand Prix, after finishing in sixth place in Saudi Arabia. In what will be his third-ever Grand Prix in Melbourne, this weekend Esteban has his sights firmly set on continuing his strongest start to a season in Formula 1.
Two positive weeks for you in the Middle East, scoring some good points and currently sixth in the Drivers' Championship. How do you reflect on your start this season?
Esteban Ocon: "For sure it has been a very positive start for me. The more I drive the new car, the more I understand it and I think as a team we are moving in the right direction. We are showing we are competitive early on and that's a good sign for everyone. It's a testament to the hard work from all the men and women at the factories over the winter and I hope we can keep going and improving. But it's a long season and we know this is a marathon not a sprint, and good consistent results will be key to achieve our targets this year. And so this past week, we've spent more time debriefing the last two races and of course preparing for Melbourne so we can bring the best package to F1's big return to Australia."
How exciting is it to go back to Melbourne, a favourite for many on the F1 calendar?
EO: "For sure it is exciting to go back to there. Last time we were in Australia we left under very bizarre circumstances and the world has changed in many ways since. I've personally always enjoyed racing there and the atmosphere is always great. I think that despite the distance, everyone genuinely enjoys going back. Melbourne is such a cool city and I am glad we can finally return and hopefully we can put on a good show for the passionate Aussie fans."
The track in Melbourne has changed quite a bit since we last raced there. What are your thoughts on this new layout?
EO: "Albert Park has always been an enjoyable track to drive and this year the track layout changes are actually pretty significant, which adds some excitement. For example, turn 9/10 has been removed and turn 6/7 changes look small, but are substantial for cornering speeds. These types of changes will mean the lap times should be several seconds faster this year, compared to the last time we completed a lap at that track. With these changes and the new generation of cars, it should make for an exciting race and some good battles on track. We are excited and can't wait to get our first taste of it in real life on Friday morning."
Fernando Alonso heads to Australia for his seventeenth appearance down under and first time in the cultural city of Melbourne since 2018. The Spaniard has so far turned in some strong performances to start his season, with some bad luck denying him a place alongside his teammate in the top six in the drivers' standings.
Are you excited to race in Melbourne again after four years away?
Fernando Alonso: "Yes, it's always fun racing in Melbourne. It's been a while, but we are all happy to be back. It usually acts as the first race of the season, so it'll be interesting to see if the weather is any different to what we have previously experienced in Melbourne. I like the track and whilst it's quite difficult to overtake the changes have been made to encourage this, so we'll see how it all plays out. I think it's clear we won't see the same level of overtakes as we witnessed in Bahrain and Saudi, but with these news cars it seems easier to follow, so in theory it should be easier to try overtakes here than it was in the past."
You've had some strong performances so far this year but equal bad luck. How do you reflect on the first two races?
FA: "We deserve to be much higher in the standings after two races. Our car has been good and the performance has also been good over the weekends. Last weekend was a disappointment as we looked comfortable and set for sixth position until we had our retirement. It was frustrating but we can be pleased with our overall pace so far. Sundays is where the points are scored so we just need to make sure we score points then. The whole team is working hard to make sure we keep on top of our development."
You and Esteban had some fun on track battles last weekend. What was it like from your point of view?
FA: "We had some fair and exciting racing in Saudi and also in Bahrain too. We have a lot of respect for one another. I'm sure there will be more battles with Esteban and the rest of the field this year, as apart from two cars ahead, it's very tight between a number of teams."
BWT Alpine F1 Team sets foot on Australian soil for the first time in three years this weekend for the first full Australian Grand Prix since 2019. BWT Alpine F1 Team Reserve Driver and local Melburnian, Oscar Piastri, shares his thoughts on Formula 1's return to Australia, ahead of a busy birthday week for the soon to be 21-year-old.
It must be exciting to have your birthday weekend and home Grand Prix at the same time?
Oscar Piastri: "It's going to be a big old week, that's for sure! My birthday on the Wednesday, Grand Prix weekend immediately afterwards. Obviously, this is the first time back for the Australian Grand Prix in the last couple of years. It's going to be a massive crowd and a big event, which I'm looking forward. Being able to see my family on top of everything else going on; it's very special for me".
What do you think about the changes to the Albert Park Circuit? Have you seen them already?
OP: "I have seen them and it's going to be a lot quicker than the old layout. I don't know how much quicker the lap times will be but I've driven the circuit on the simulator and it's significantly quicker. The back section where they've removed the chicane, it's now basically a massive straight leading into the right hander. There could be some interesting overtaking moves into there and cars side by side at very high speeds. It'll be exciting. I think these new cars can follow better at high speeds, so I think the changes made here suit the new cars very well".
How would you assess the team's fortunes in the first two rounds of the season?
OP: "I think it's been good so far. Bahrain was good to open our account with a double-points finish. I think the potential was there for a little bit more but to have two cars finish in the points at the first round, I think was a good result for the team. Saudi Arabia was looking really good but unfortunately we had Fernando's car issue. It's been a promising start with more to come I'm sure!"
Has being in the pitlane and garage given you a new perspective on the team and the sport?
OP: "I think so definitely. Especially having the fans back now and seeing the other sides of the sport apart from the driving side, such as the media and socialising with fans for example, there's a lot more going on than the junior categories. I think that's been the biggest thing I've gotten used to. At the end of the day, it's still of course a race team of the highest level. I think all of the top teams in motorsport have several things in common. Being able to listen in the garage and pitwall is very insightful and I'm trying to learn as much as I can to implement that when I hopefully get onto the grid".