Esteban Ocon said qualifying was a stressful experience as he continued to push flat out after making contact with the wall twice on his fastest lap.
“I’m still breathing in and taking my breath because it’s been a very stressful qualifying,” said the Alpine driver, who will start tomorrow’s race from sixth on the grid. “The margins are so small and the amount of pushing and risk you have to take around here is pretty impressive.
“I hit the wall twice in my fastest lap – turn one and the last corner. So I thought that was it. I thought I broke something. And I kept pedal to the metal thinking it would have been okay and that doesn’t feel right.
“I still improved. I think it was probably the maximum that there was. I’m happy with the lap, happy with how we improved the car from FP3 to quali because FP3 didn’t feel right in the way we wanted. So, definitely a good step from Bahrain as well and I hope we can give a good fight to the other cars tomorrow.”
Ocon admitted his car has been a handful to drive at times. He had a high-speed snap during final practice at turn 10 – the same corner where Mick Schumacher suffered a huge crash in qualifying last year – but avoided hitting the wall.
“The car’s been floating in high-speed [corners] and there was a lot of movements and I got too many close calls this weekend,” he said. “In FP3 I had a big, big one, it was very close to do like Mick last year and like I did also last year and in quali again.
“So it’s time to push the limits and it’s normal that you get that close but it was pushed a little bit too far from early on because we needed to experiment things and we needed to find out about some set-up changes.”
The car’s challenging handling made it “hard to put it together” in qualifying, said Ocon. “There was corners where the car was a little bit more tricky than others so I could not build my confidence.
“I had to disconnect in a way and just go as fast as I could. It was moving all around and it’s been moving for the last two days, really. So I’m happy that qualifying is behind us.”
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2023 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
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