Esteban Ocon reveals he was only a lap from “disaster” in the Belgian Grand Prix and that he might not have finished his maiden F1 race had he had to do complete another circuit of Spa-Francorchamps.
The Mercedes junior development driver and Renault reserve driver managed to survive the opening lap melee, but later broke a brake duct, and revealed he was struggling with his tyres at the end, although he still managed to hold off Sauber's Felipe Nasr to take P16.
“The race was quite good,” said the Frenchman. “We took the opportunity that there was on track, putting some pressure on the guys in front and making my way through on the first lap - that was important to do, to stay out of trouble.
“After that though we broke a brake duct, which made us lose a lot of time in the race. That wasn't ideal and it was very tough to finish with the tyres at the end, but we still kept Nasr behind. I think that was the only one we were racing really.”
Asked how close he was to retiring because of that brake duct problem, he replied: “Not retiring, but was just losing performance, losing aero, and at the end that was why it was so tough to finish with the tyres. I think one more lap and it could have been a disaster. It was really close.”
Meanwhile, Ocon added that he felt he might have been able to fight with Renault's Jolyon Palmer had things panned out a bit differently.
“I think the tyres degraded quite a lot, but this brake duct issue affected us a lot. It is something like almost one second per lap. So, it didn't help with that and without it we would have been more competitive and maybe taking the Renault. I think that would have been possible.
"We also missed the pit stop, which was seven seconds at one pit stop. So, when Palmer stopped and went again, I could have been in front of him and so it would have been a different race.
"But we have a lot of 'ifs', and you never get anywhere with that. We need to learn from that and keep moving forward,” he concluded.