Ocon rewarded with new Alpine deal ahead of home grand prix

By Sports Desk June 16, 2021

Esteban Ocon has signed a new contract to keep him tied to Alpine until 2024, with the deal agreed just days before he races on home soil at the French Grand Prix.

The 24-year-old is in the second year with the team, who have acted fast to hand him a three-year extension.

Ocon has made the points in four of his six races so far this season and sits just one point behind two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, his more experienced team-mate at the outfit formerly known as Renault.

A superb second-place finish at the Sakhir Grand Prix in the penultimate race of last season was the highlight of a 2020 campaign for Ocon where he finished 12th in the drivers' standings.

The Frenchman said: "I'm delighted to continue with the team beyond this year and it is a fantastic feeling to secure my future with Alpine.

"We have been progressing well together since I joined the team and I aim to continue that journey going forward.

"There are great challenges ahead of us, especially with the new regulations in 2022. I'm sure we can hit our targets by working hard together and continuing the story.

"I often think back to the Sakhir Grand Prix last year with the podium, and it motivates me to create more special memories like that.

"I'm really looking forward to the next chapter but, for now, we are very much focused on this season and taking each race as it comes."

The 2020 campaign was Ocon's first back in F1 after missing a year in 2019, when he served as a Mercedes test driver after missing out on a race seat.

This is his sixth F1 season, having previously raced for Lotus, Manor and Force India.

Alpine said Ocon was "a perfect ambassador" for the team and stated their "belief in the Frenchman as a star of the sport" as they look to return to world championship contention in the years ahead.

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  • Bagnaia was 'on another level' says Quartararo after Misano tussle Bagnaia was 'on another level' says Quartararo after Misano tussle

    Francesco Bagnaia was "on another level" as he sealed victory at the San Marino Grand Prix on Sunday, so says MotoGP championship leader Fabio Quartararo.

    Bagnaia held off Quartararo in a pulsating late battle to secure back-to-back victories, following on from his maiden MotoGP win in Aragon last time out.

    Yamaha's Quartararo still holds a healthy 48-point lead over Bagnaia in the world championship standings, after the Frenchman made a late charge to secure second place ahead of rookie Enea Bastianini.

    Quartararo was delighted with his ride, but was full of admiration for Bagnaia's performance at Misano.

    "It was so difficult because they were attacking me from all sides and I lost quite a bit of time in the beginning," Quartararo said.

    "But I gave it all and sometimes was really close to the ground. I wanted to try for the win but Francesco was on another level today, I don't know how he's doing that.

    "At the end we did the job, points in the championship is really important, we still have an advantage so let's stay calm and give congratulations to Francesco because he did an amazing race."

    A first MotoGP win had been a long time coming for Ducati's Bagnaia, who was delighted to so swiftly add a second, and he acknowledged a strong start was crucial to his victory.

    "With soft tyres, maybe I was struggling a bit, but I tried to push in the first two or three laps to make the gap," he said.

    "It was very difficult, but I tried to push. The pace was quite close.

    "We worked it so perfectly, two big wins in a row is incredible for me. I was targeting to win my first race but always I was missing something and now already two, so I'm very happy."

    Bastianini, meanwhile, revelled in a maiden podium appearance.

    "It's possible to do this with these bikes, I know the potential," Bastianini said. 

    "I battled a lot during the race, it was really difficult to close the gap. It was impossible for me to attack these two riders [Bagnaia and Quartararo] today, but it's really nice to have the first podium at Misano, it's amazing for me."

  • Brilliant Bagnaia fends off Quartararo to win in San Marino Brilliant Bagnaia fends off Quartararo to win in San Marino

    Francesco Bagnaia held off Fabio Quartararo in a pulsating late battle to secure back-to-back victories at the San Marino Grand Prix on Sunday.

    Bagnaia led from start to finish but came under huge pressure from Quartararo in the final few laps at Ducati's local track of Misano, where the rain that was forecast never arrived.

    The Italian held his nerve to secure another victory from pole a week after claiming his maiden MotoGP win in Aragon.

    Bagnaia's triumph left him 48 points behind Yamaha's championship leader Quartararo, who had to settle for second spot following a late charge after starting in third.

    Rookie Enea Bastianini produced a sensational ride to get himself on the podium for the first time, having been way back in 11th on the grid, while Marc Marquez took fourth ahead of Jack Miller and Joan Mir.

    Bagnaia got off to a flyer and his team-mate Miller retained second spot off the grid, while Jorge Martin spun off early on at Turn 14 but picked himself up to continue.

    Marquez gained a couple of early places and Quartararo flashed past Miller to move into second spot, with Bagnaia extending his advantage out in front.

    Bastianini stormed past Marquez into fourth and Martin retired with 16 laps to go before Alex Rins crashed out.

    Bagnaia looked comfortable but Quartararo started to close significantly with the laps running out, with the Frenchman scenting a dramatic victory.

    The ice-cool Bagnaia was not to be denied, though, and his compatriot secured a magnificent third place after overtaking Miller with nine laps remaining.

  • Eyes on the skies as Bagnaia and Quartararo brace for San Marino MotoGP battle Eyes on the skies as Bagnaia and Quartararo brace for San Marino MotoGP battle

    Francesco Bagnaia stormed to another MotoGP pole position but Sunday's weather could be pivotal to deciding who wins the San Marino Grand Prix.

    Ducati bikes dominated qualifying, accounting for four of the top five places, with Jack Miller joining Bagnaia in a one-two for the factory team, ahead of Yamaha's championship leader Fabio Quartararo.

    The Ducati-powered Pramac Racing pair of Jorge Martin and Johann Zarco took fourth and fifth at Misano, a local track for Ducati who will be hoping for a 'home' race win.

    Yet Bagnaia and Quartararo both indicated after Saturday's qualifying session that should it rain, as forecasts suggest it well may, that could be a major factor in the outcome. A wet track is likely to suit the pole-sitter.

    Pace-setter Bagnaia also took pole at last week's Aragon Grand Prix and converted that into a race win, his first at MotoGP level, and he sits second in the championship.

    He described his fastest lap time on Saturday as "incredible" and said: "I feel great with everything. I think we did a really good pace

    "In both conditions, dry and wet, I think we are ready to fight. For sure, in the dry Fabio has better pace than in Aragon, so I think it can be a good fight with him, but let's see, never say never.

    "I prefer dry. It's very difficult to predict a strategy for tomorrow but I'd like to start well, push from the start, and see if I can manage the gap or I will have to fight in the last laps. In any case we will try to be ready for every condition.

    "It's the second weekend in a row that all the Ducati are at the front in qualifying, and also for me to put the bike in front of Fabio for the championship. We're working well, the bike is very competitive, and we're doing a really great step every time."

    Quartararo crashed as he looked to jump ahead of Bagnaia on the grid, but the French rider brushed that off after the session, declaring he was "totally OK".

    "I just wanted to exaggerate a little bit on the braking, but unfortunately it was not working," Quartararo told MotoGP's official website. "But it was good, I gave it a try – at least I felt the real limit on the bike. I feel like our pace is really good compared to Aragon, where it was not great. I'm feeling ready for tomorrow – a little bit surrounded by red [Ducati] bikes but I'm feeling good.

    "They are faster than us in the wet, but my feeling on the dry is super good and I want to keep going in that direction. I don't want to talk about rain and I don't want to call it."

    Ducati have now been on pole four times at Misano, after Casey Stoner topped the time sheets in 2007 and 2008, followed by Jorge Lorenzo three years ago. Of those pole-sitters, only Stoner in 2007 took the chequered flag on race day.

    Last season's champion Joan Mir had a qualifying session to forget, with a dashboard message on his Suzuki Ecstar bike urging him to pit proving a red herring. There was no problem with the bike, and technical manager Ken Kawauchi later apologised for the mistake.

    Mir was ushered back to the track but could only finish in 11th place, with Quartararo's crash causing yellow-flag conditions in the closing stages.

    "Qualifying was a shame; we didn’t have the potential to fight for pole and we're honestly quite far from that," said Mir.

    "I felt that the second row was possible, but then I had some trouble with the front on my first exit, then I saw a message on my dashboard right after I exited for the second run. I thought I should stop in case there was something wrong with the bike, and in the end this impacted my qualifying as well as the yellow flag on my last flying lap.

    "There’s no point being frustrated; the focus now is on the race and I know I have good pace if I can get a strong start."


    Qualifying results

    1. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) 1:31.065
    2. Jack Miller (Ducati) +0.249secs
    3. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha) +0.302
    4. Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) +0.598
    5. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) +0.771
    6. Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda) +0.858
    7. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) +0.870
    8. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) +0.872
    9. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) +0.952
    10. Maverick Vinales (Aprilia) +1.056
    11. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar) +1.361
    12. Enea Bastianini (Avintia) +1.396

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