Ocon joins elite French class of F1 winners
Budapest (AFP) –
After emerging victorious from the chaotic Hungarian GP on Sunday, Esteban Ocon has joined a small group of Formula 1 race winners from France.
The man from a modest family in Normandy became the 14th Frenchman in the F1 winners club joining the likes of four-time world champion Alain Prost, who racked up 51 wins, Olivier Panis, who won in Monaco in 1996, and Pierre Gasly, the winner at Monza last year.
Compounding his newfound hero status in France he won Sunday's race in an Alpine, the rebranded Renault, in its first season on the F1 circuit.
Ocon danced along as La Marseillaise was played on the podium in a similar way to which he played to the crowds after abandoning his bright blue vehicle on the track and running arms aloft before the packed ranks of fans at the Hungaroring track.
Lewis Hamilton said Ocon "has been a shining star for some time".
Hamilton would be well placed to know as the 24-year-old was a Mercedes test driver as recently as 2019.
It was there that Ocon earned a reputation as being able to close out his tasks, and in a way perseverence is how he won on Sunday.
During his Mercedes days he was known to spend entire nights in the factory simulator to set up the various technical settings for world champion Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
After his parents had poured their savings into his career, Ocon lost his place at Racing Point in 2018 when Lance Stroll was appointed following his father's investment in the team.
Then came his chance with Alpine where he was teamed with Spanish ace Fernando Alonso, the former two-time champion.
Alonso, now 40, did a great deal Sunday to hold up Hamilton as the pair duelled for several laps, eventually allowing Ocon to get past the post.
"My personal objectives are to push the car to its limits in every race so we can say at the end of every weekend we did our best," he said ahead of the season.
Smiling broadly as he paraded his lanky frame over the podium he promised it would be a "magic Monday party" when he got home to celebrate with his loved ones after taking the flag ahead of Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Alonso, who have 13 world titles between them.
© 2021 AFP