Esteban Ocon reveals that he’s been driving a model of Alpine’s 2024 Formula 1 car in the simulator since September, the earliest he’s ever conducted the practice in his career.

Alpine entered the season aiming to build on the fourth place it secured last year, but the team has slumped to sixth after being overhauled by Aston Martin and McLaren.

The Enstone squad’s turbulent start to 2023 saw both Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer and Sporting Director Alan Permane depart after the Belgian Grand Prix in July.

In a bid to reverse its flailing fortunes, Ocon, who maintains that Alpine can replicate McLaren’s progress this year, has disclosed that he’s driven a model of the team’s A524 in the simulator two months in advance.

“Obviously the team is very well aware of where they have to go, in terms of improving the current situation,” Ocon said ahead of last weekend’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

“I’ve been driving the car quite a bit in the simulator, the 2024 model. Quite early on, compared to usual. So that has been a very good thing, we’ve been able to tackle some issues and to have some early feedback, in comparison to really driving it end of November or December, we were able to do that early September.

“But, until you put the car down, you don’t really know where that’s going to be exactly. We can compare the two cars, it’s been interesting, but there’s still going to be months of development and wind tunnel time during the winter, and that’s going to be different to how we test the car at the shakedown but also different to how it starts, I guess, at the first race.”

Esteban Ocon (FRA) Alpine F1 Team A523.
29.10.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 20, Mexican Grand Prix, Mexico City, Mexico, Race Day.
–, EMail: © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

Ocon asserts that the Anglo-French marque’s premature preparation for next season has emerged from the side’s desire to rectify the shortcomings of its current challenger.

Asked for the reason behind Alpine’s early start, the Frenchman replied: “It’s just the continuity of improving little things. There’s a feeling that we could get the lead in some things that we didn’t do probably as well last year.

“And it’s very good that we’ve done so because it makes it… having more feedback to the engineers early, because you don’t produce the parts yet, then you have time to probably revert on some aspects that, you know, you decided. And to be honest it’s probably the earliest I’ve driven next year’s car, ever. So that’s good.”

With teams restricted on in-season testing, Ocon insists that the simulator is the only tool that Alpine can rely on until its 2024 car hits the track for the first time next year.

“I mean… it’s never perfect, I guess,” he said regarding the reliability of Alpine’s simulator.

“There can be some issues at times, we’ve experienced that, especially more with the new cars I would say, more last year. But… that’s the only tool we have so we have to trust it as much as possible. Because we can’t test, and that’s the only representative feeling that I’m going to have with the car until you get to test it, I don’t know, in Silverstone or Barcelona or whatever.”

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