For the first time in his still young career, Esteban Ocon (Prema Powerteam) was allowed to take part in an official Formula 1 event. At Abu Dhabi, the young Frenchman, the winner of this year’s FIA Formula 3 European Championship title, ran in first free practice for the Lotus F1 team and showed a good performance.
Max Verstappen (Van Amersfoort Racing) already having made his Formula 1 debut in free practice at Suzuka, Esteban Ocon is the second young driver from the ranks of this year’s FIA Formula 3 European Championship who was allowed to take part in a free practice session in Formula 1. Earlier, the long-term protégé of the Lotus F1 Team already convinced in two days of testing a Formula 1 car at Valencia, his reward for winning the FIA Formula 3 European Championship title.
At Abu Dhabi, he racked up 29 laps and ended up 16th in the final classification. Thus, the 18-year-old was only 0.355 seconds slower than his team-mate Pastor Maldonado who has the experience of over 70 Formula 1 races under his belt and already scored one race win. “Being able to take part in a free practice session in Formula 1 for the first time was a great feeling,” Ocon commented after the session. “I gradually worked my way towards the limit, because this was my first time driving the current race car. I found out that it requires a different driving style than the previous generation of cars that I drove during the Valencia test. I am happy with my performance, but because I didn’t drive at the limit, there certainly is still room for improvement during testing next week.”
Lotus F1 Team chief engineer Alan Permane only had positive words for his up-and-coming youngster after the 90 minutes’ practice session: “Esteban did a solid job. He did everything what we asked from him. He certainly is a great talent for the future.”