Q:
Your first off-season as an F1 driver, how did you find it given your move to Force India?

Esteban Ocon
The off-season was recharging the batteries first, so December I had a bit of time to recharge a bit, though there was some dinners, some prize giving ceremonies it was not relaxing at all really! With the family during the day then the nights there was always something. I had to go to Paris, we had a Christmas dinner with Force India, French gala, so I had to go everywhere. I quickly went into training mode and built up a great base from there. I had high altitude training in the centre, it was at almost 3,000 metres so that was good. It was hard, I almost vomited daily! But I'm happy to have done that.

Q:
How important now is pre-season for a driver to learn and adapt their driving style to the car given the regulation changes?

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EO
Winter testing was very important to prepare, as important as if you were missing practice in the race. You get used to the team you get used to the car, if your seat is not great, your heel rest is moving and there's something that bothers you, you can change it once you arrive to the good moment which is qualifying. So it's really important.

Q:
What did you personally learn and adapt to your driving style?

EO
There's a lot of things, too many things to speak about! We've learned so much about the car, which direction to take setup-wise, also how to work and understand with my engineers as well, but also how the tyre works, how everything reacts basically.

Q:
Times don't mean much in testing but you matched Sergio's pace, were you surprised at how quick you got up to speed?

EO
I didn't really look at the times to be honest, I mean it was different days so you can't really compare, I know what's important that I did a good job in testing getting used to everything, and working closely with the team to improve the car. That was important, probably more important than lap times because they will count now but they didn't count back then.

Q:
What was your first reaction when you took your first lap around Barcelona?

EO
Before when I was getting back into a Formula 1 car for the first time I was like "wow that's a lot of power", and now we're down on power, so I thought that's strange there's not so much power anymore, but when I went into the corner it was a different story! There was a lot of grip and it was very impressive and very nice.

Q:
Does coming into a year with a pre-season behind you give you more confidence?

EO
For sure it's easier to start the season with a lot of preparation than to jump into an FP1 at Spa, it's much easier, and already from a position point of view I arrived in Spa and had to rush to do the seat. Here we had one month to do a seat and it feels much more comfortable If you're driving and you're not comfortable you're not going to go very fast.

Q:
You've had many teams in a small time period, coming from DTM, to Manor, to Force India, is it difficult being pushed around like that?

EO
Well I mean you start to get used to that to be honest, changing teams a lot and being a rookie a lot as well. Starting from single seaters with Koiranen in my first year, then the second year with ART junior team then to PREMA, then went to ART which is another team again, then to ART DTM! Then to Renault, to Manor, to Force India and Mercedes, all the teams I've done you get used to it to work with new people. For sure it's better to stay a bit more with one team and to get a close relationship and know exactly how everyone works, but sometimes you have no choice and you have to get used to that as soon as possible.

Q:
There must be pressure on Force India to hold on to fourth position, does that pressure stem down to you given its your rookie year?

EO
I think it's still early to speak about results or points or numbers. We need to see where everyone is, I think in testing everyone had something left in the pocket, so we will see where we are already and a strong weekend would be a good base to start the season.

Q:
You don't feel as much pressure on yourself then?

EO
No I feel like I know my subject and I know what I have to do.

Q:
First driver to beat is always your team mate, do you feel like you have to beat Pascal as well?

EO
Well he's not my team mate anymore, he's still in the programme obviously but he probably has a different target than I have. I don't think really about this, I'm living my dream at the moment and taking it season by season and I'm very happy to be here with Force India. At the moment I'm fully focused on what I have to do here.

Q:
With your Force India signing, what does that mean for Mercedes development program with you and Pascal?

EO
Yeah, we have respect for each other, we're not best friends but there is respect between us and I respect him a lot for what he did with Manor last year and he's a very strong driver and very good as well.

Q:
It's no secret that the Force India is the better car, do you think you're one step ahead now?

EO
Let's hope so! But still we don't know. Let's hope we are miles ahead.

Q:
With the development program, has Mercedes indicated any future possibilities?

EO
Well I think once you're a Mercedes junior it's quite normal that they don't prepare you for nothing in the end, but as I said I may be a Mercedes junior but here I am a Force India driver focused on the job I have to do here. If you start thinking about this it's not the right way.

Q:
What can you achieve with Force India this season? What's the goal at the end of the season?

EO
My personal target is to score points in every race and challenge for podiums like Checo did last year when the car is able to do so, but once again it's too early to speak about it.

Q:
For someone like you the junior programmes are essential, what do you think when you see other drivers like Lance Stroll getting into F1 on an easier route and you had to work so hard?

EO
Well for sure he comes to Formula 1 not by a junior programme, but I think he really deserves it, he won Formula 3 and he's got the right attitude and he's been winning Formula 4 as well, been doing great things in go karts when I was fighting with him back then. So he didn't come by a junior programme but I think he really deserves it, and I mean if you win a main championship in a single seater I think you will always deserve your chance, and what we saw this year was only drivers that had the ability to do great in the previous single seater categories and get to Formula 1 is really nice. Stoffel won in GP2 he did great things in two-litre as well, I won Formula 3 and GP3 and went to Formula 1, Lance won Formula 3 and went to Formula 1, so I think that's the way. When you win titles like these you shouldn't have a problem.

Q:
Do you think they have a different approach than you have?

EO:
On my side you are always racing and there's this fear is a bit in the back, but I think I managed it well. I was having no pressure really and I think that was one of my strengths back then, and always believing I had good support from the back and I always had with Lotus and Mercedes, and Mercedes is still the case, so for sure it's easier for the drivers but the moment you hit Formula 1 you don't see that.

Q:
Are you happy with the changes and the direction F1 is headed in?

EO:
I'm very happy, I hope it's not going to compromise too much overtaking, let's hope not, if not it's going to be 100 per cent improvement.

Q:
As a fan of the sport with new owners taking over, is there anything you would like to see changed or introduced?

EO:
I'm very happy already how a lot of things have changed, it's really nice to see that. I get to film in the paddock, I like the new format of the press conference how they split it in two with a TV pen first then you go into the press conference room, that's really cool. The TV pen is close to the fans as well so I really like that, also with social media it's quite nice to see the stories on the Formula 1 feed, there's a lot of things that's changed and I really like it, it feels good starting a new era like this.

Q:
What are your thoughts on the new starting procedure?

EO:
It will be much more difficult, definitely. It's so tiny, from here to there you are hero to zero, it's one centimetre, so I think practice will make perfect and you will see a lot of differences in the starts which is good.

Q:
Any element of luck involved or is it all down to practice?

EO:
There's nothing coming with luck!

Q:
If you do make a mistake and get wheel spin is it too late?

EO:
It's often too late, but it's like a normal road car basically, when you put the clutch in you're fully engaged, then when you release the pedal it's the same. It just happens much faster.

Q:
In a road car you have a feeling, is it similar?

EO:
Yeah you feel it in a road car but no, you feel it in the rear wheels, you feel the slip

Q:
There's a lot of talk about fitness leading into this season and you mentioned earlier you were almost vomiting every day... You also said you put on 5kg, do you enjoy this style of training better?

EO:
Yes, a lot more because I'm not a fan of cardio! So I was quite happy in the gym and putting some weight on, that was good. I think it was needed because the cars are really hard to drive and it was good to do that.

Q:
What's your favourite exercise to do in the gym?

EO:
Pull ups, wide.

Q:
How many?

EO:
25!

Q:
What did you eat?

EO:
A lot of proteins, it was a high protein diet eating every two hours.

Q:
Did you have to watch your weight last season?

EO:
I never really had this issue to be honest, I was always light luckily because I'm very tall, so I was always on a good weight. I think this year I'm at a good weight also.

Crash.net:
Thanks Esteban and good luck for your first full season in F1!

EO:
Thanks!

Interview by Josh Kruse