F1Weekly podcast # 815


F1Weekly’s exclusive interview with
Esteban Ocon at the 2019 Abu Dhabi GP.

Photo: Humansideofracing.com

“Future is so bright I need some shades.” Things are going great for the young Frenchman. With a little help from Toto and Renault he is back on the track in 2020.

Q. First of all, welcome back to the world of Formula 1. On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you or do we need a bigger scale?

A. “Bigger scale, I think. Thank you for the welcome back but I never really left this F1 world. I was always here as soon as there was an engine firing up. I was here waiting and ready to jump.”

Q. In your brief Formula 1 career so far you were already king of consistency. Moving forward what is the game plan, maximum attack on Daniel Ricciardo or keep calm and carry-on to score many points?

A. “Well, it will be to score as many points as possible. You know that is important in the championship. There are sometimes when you need to take a bit of risk. But you need to think about what you are going to win and what you’re going to lose from that. So, there is always a thought going behind risk-taking.”

Q. Sounds like you are learning from Sebastian and Leclerc?

A. “Why? No, I always thought myself about this, no, no, no. I’ve been driving since a lot of times so I take the experience in obviously.”

Q. We all know Formula 1 is serious dog eat dog world, in terms of driving style are there many similarities between you and Danny, and do you expect any help from him in terms of set up and data sharing?

A. “I don’t know his driving style yet. But for sure I think we will work together with all the engineers, data sharing and all those things will be, of course, normal things. And I hope we can make the team move forward from that.”

Q. Renault won the very first Grand Prix in this world. Are you extra happy to be with a French team?

A. “Yes, yes, more than happy. It’s the team where I grew up with in Enstone since 2010, I was part of the program till 2014 so I really grew up in the factory there and it felt like a story which should not have ended, so I am pretty happy to continue it now.”

Photo. The Guardian.

Sparks fly when young guns clash. The famous Sao Paulo Samba between Esteban and “force of nature” Max during the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Q. You and Max were in the news after the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix. Will there be exchange of Christmas cards in December so we, the race fans, know that everything is cool between the two of you?

A. “We actually had a cool race with the road car on the Pirelli hot laps yesterday. We had two laps of racing, we had good fun and then we had a good laugh when we came out of the car. So, no problem between us.”

Q. Success has been part and parcel of your racing life. From Karting to F3 and GP3, was there a particular season or series where you felt you improved the most?

A. “I think every year has been useful for me to develop myself, of course, some years have been more difficult than others. All in all, I think the more categories you do, the more things you see the more useful it is before coming to F1 because it’s more experience. I don’t think one year is less useful than another, I think they all have been useful.”

Q. Among all the drivers you have raced against from Karting to Formula 1, who stand out as real tough competitors?

A. “I think Max and Charles really. They were the ones where we raced the whole time together. Of course, quick competitors but tough ones also on the track. I think we pushed ourselves forward all our career, basically that helps bring the level up when we arrive into Formula 1. It’s been quite a few years with them.”

Q. From your Karting days what events stand out?

A. “I have been three times French champion. I finished second in the World Series Karting which is like the world championship and those are my main wins.”

Q. When you moved from Karting to single seaters how challenging was the adjustment or did it come naturally to you?

A. “No, it took some time. it took a year to really get very, very comfortable. Of course, I was against a very quick teammate, who was Daniil Kvyat who had three years of racing in single seaters (experience). As soon as I was in my second year I was fighting for the title. From there on it was good.”

Q. Before you got picked up by Gravity management who was guiding your career?

A. “My parents. Then it’s always been Eric Boullier and Gwen, who still works for Mercedes now, still manage the junior program. So, we’ve come a long way since that time.”

Q. In 2020, you remain under Mercedes management. How did this deal happen? Did Toto call you or did you send him a case of French wine?

A. “No, it’s a bit more complicated than that. In 2014, I won the Formula 3 championship and the program got lost a bit, and they ran out of money so I had no program for 2015.

“So, I called Toto and said look, because I met him in that year, I don’t have any possibilities for next year at the moment can you find me something? He said if Lotus can’t do anything for you, I take you under the Mercedes star.

“I waited couple of months and that’s what he did. Definitely thankful for Toto and everything he has been helping on since 2015.”

Q. How was your time in DTM?

A. “I choose back in the day to do that. I wanted to be a professional driver straight away coming from, you know my background. Of course, there was no secure thing if I was going to go to F1. or not and I wanted to be professional straight away.

“In the end it was a fantastic step up because it has good preparation for Formula 1. Back in the days they had tire blankets, full on engineers, cars they were very complicated. Yeah, I went from there to Formula 1 and felt more or less I was doing the same. So, it has been good to do that.”

Q. For 2020, has Renault set any goals for you to achieve?

A. “I think you can probably ask Cyril on what the objective are? In my opinion what we want to achieve is improving from where they are this year and just do better than what they have done. That’s the target, of course, I want to score podiums, that would be fantastic but we will see. Let’s start first and see later.”

Q. Your favorite tracks? I’m guessing Spa is there?

A. “No, Spa is not. I am a bit different than any other driver on that; Suzuka, Budapest, Monaco.”

Q. Do you enjoy racing in the wet?

A. “Yes, very much, very much. Enjoy? Yes and no. But you know when I’m on it I feel at ease really. It’s a condition I like.”

Q. Sadly, grid girls are gone from F1, in your time in F1 which Grand Prix had the best looking chicas de pista?

A. “That was before my time so I don’t know. I can’t really tell you. We still have some kind of grid girls sometimes. It’s good that we also have kids that can have the chance to meet us and all that. I think we probably could have both all in all.”

Q. Do you enjoy meeting fans?

A. “I don’t mind. It’s awesome to see the support. A lot of fans give gifts to me.”

Esteban extremely delighted to celebrate the agreement to receive F1weekly’s famous check with many 000000s.

– – Nasir Hameed

Play Podcast: 01-14-20f1weekly815.mp3



Alonso could only wait and watch as Mathieu Serradori beat him to the win on Stage 8 of the Dakar Rally.

The double World Champion was two minutes ahead of the chasing pack from Wadi Al Dawasir to Wadi Al Dawasir only for Serradori to come through four minutes faster.

Neither the bikes nor quads ran on Monday following the death of Paulo Gonçalves.

Racing from Wadi Al Dawasir to Wadi Al Dawasir over 477ms of dunes and canyons, double F1 World Champion Alonso, competing in his first-ever Dakar, set the pace.

The Spaniard, driving a Toyota Hilux, was sitting top of the pile at the end of the stage with only Serradori still in the hunt.

The Frenchman took 3h48m to complete the stage, beating Alonso by 4m04.

“I’m absolutely delighted,” said Serradori. “It’s a wonderful story. Yesterday’s stage was very complicated – we made a mistake and paid a heavy price. This morning, we pulled our socks up and left everyone behind us.

“I’d like to dedicate this victory to Paulo because I’m a former biker. It’s not easy to get motivated after a day like that and my co-pilot Fabien was there as well. But there are two fighters in the car and I’m very happy with this result.”

Giniel de Villiers was fourth quickest in his Toyota Hilux while Dakar leader Carlos Sainz opened the stage on Monday and almost immediately began to lose time.

He was overhauled on the stage by Nasser Al-Attiyah and Stéphane Peterhansel with defending champion reducing Sainz’s overall to 6m40.

South Africa’s De Villiers remains sixth overall, his deficit to Sainz reduced to 53m12.

Yasir Seaidan lost time when he got his Mini stuck in the sand.

F1Weekly Podcast # 814


Stephane Peterhansel, known as Mr.Dakar for his 13 wins over the years, overcame the challenges of taking English instructions from Portuguese notes man Paulo Fiuza and a tough couple of days in the office, to move his Mini buggy into the lead midway through the day’s stage.

He then stormed to a powerful Day 4 win over 2019 Dakar winner Nasser Al Attiyah’s Gazoo Toyota Hilux and double world Dakar champion Carlos Sainz in another Mini buggy.

The rally legend emerged unscathed from the dangerous fourth stage, conceding a mere seven minutes to stage winner Peterhansel despite having to open the special. The Spaniard still leads the general classification by three minutes over Al-Attiyah.

Sainz said of his day, “The last 100 kilometres were the toughest sector I’ve ever faced in the Dakar. It was insane. There were rocks all over the place and I could not see the tracks, it was devilish. At times like these, making it to the finish without running into trouble already feels like a win.

Play Podcast: 01-08-20f1weekly814.mp3



Two-time winner Carlos Sainz became the third new leader of the Dakar Rally after winning the third stage ahead of defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah on Tuesday.
Sainz and Al-Attiyah vied for the lead throughout the 427-kilometer loop out from and back to Neom near Saudi Arabia’s northern border with Jordan.

Sainz prevailed after nearly four hours, beating Al-Attiyah by 3 1/2 minutes on a course with a fast first half and mountainous second.

Jakub Przygonski, who endured six hours of mechanical problems on the first stage, was third. Former Formula One driver Fernando Alonso was fifth.

Overnight leader Orlando Terranova was nearly 13 minutes behind Sainz on the stage and dropped to third overall, eight minutes back.

Sainz led Al-Attiyah by nearly five minutes overall.

The motorbike standings had to be modified because of GPS problems. Organisers used the times after 389 kilometres.

That reduced Ricky Brabec’s commanding victory from 10 minutes to six over Honda teammates Jose Ignacio Cornejo and Kevin Benavides.

The change also benefited defending champion Toby Price and Xavier de Soultrait. They were originally 35 and 48 minutes off the pace, but that was reduced to 8 1/2 and nearly 14 and they stayed in the top eight.

Brabec took over the lead in the general standings, nearly five minutes ahead of Benavides. Matthias Walkner was third.

Price was less than 12 minutes back. Ross Branch, the winner of stage two, slammed his back wheel into a rock while taking a corner too wide after 88 kilometres and fell and hurt his shoulder.

He finished, though, unlike others who crashed and had to withdraw, including Guillaume Cholet, Adrien van Beveren, Olaf Harmsen, and Martien Jimmink.

De Soultrait also fell but finished with a tourniquet on his bleeding right arm.

The rally finishes on Jan. 17.



Alonso was close to the frontrunners’ pace over the first 160 kilometres of the test, but his Toyota Hilux was then halted after an impact with a rock that left it with wheel and suspension damage.

Alonso and co-driver Marc Coma attempted repairs on the spot and ultimately resumed the stage after giving up just over two hours.

The Al Wajh – Neom stage, featuring 367 kilometres of timed competition, is the first of six in this year’s Dakar for which the roadbook is made available to crews minutes before the start, as opposed to the afternoon of the prior day

Much of the day’s proceedings were dominated by local hero Yazeed Al Rajhi, who led at each of the first five waypoints and was up by over six minutes after 250 kilometres, making up for the time losses incurred in an early detour on Sunday.

Al-Rajhi’s bid for stage victory and the overall lead fell apart in the very end, however, as he ceded over 20 minutes to fellow Toyota driver Giniel de Villiers, who ended the day as the pace-setter.

However, de Villiers’ opening stage travails mean he is only sixth in the general classification after two days, and trails Terranova by 12 minutes.

The Argentine, in a four-wheel-drive Mini John Cooper Works Rally, was second fastest on the day, while Khalid Al Qassimi in a privateer Peugeot and Mathieu Serradori in a Century buggy made it four different cars in the top four in the stage rankings.

The marathon’s two most recent champions, Mini buggy driver Carlos Sainz and Toyota’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, both surrendered over 10 minutes on Monday but are in the top three in the overall classification, with Serradori a surprise fourth.



Toyota’s defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah led the way for most of the 319km timed special on the coastal stage from Jeddah to Al Wajh that kicked off the first ever Saudi Arabia-based Dakar.

But the Qatari suffered three punctures late on, paving the way for an upset.

With the X-raid Mini buggies of past rally winners Stephane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz Sr having both lost several minutes early on, the privateer Peugeot of Khalid Al Qassimi and Zala’s Mini assumed the leading positions heading into the final stretch of the test.

And though former World Rally Championship regular Al Qassimi suffered a late setback and lost over a quarter of an hour, Zala held firm to clinch the stage win by two minutes over Peterhansel.

The Lithuanian, who is part of the Agrorodeo outfit and has switched to a Mini ALL4 Racing after finishing 12th overall in a Toyota last year, thus became the first driver to win a Dakar stage in a four-wheel-drive Mini since Mikko Hirvonen in 2016.

Sainz made it a Mini 1-2-3 behind Zala and Peterhansel, while Al-Attiyah mitigated the damage from his late-stage travails in fourth place, 5m33s off the pace.

Bernhard ten Brinke was Al-Attiyah’s next best Toyota squadmate, finishing a minute behind in fifth and followed by the other big surprise in the top 10 – Mathieu Serradori in a South African-developed Century CR6 buggy.

azeed Al Rajhi began his first home Dakar with eighth place in his Overdrive Toyota, but more or less matched the leaders’ pace after losing time in the early kilometres.

Alonso in 11th was 15 minutes and 27 seconds off the pace set by the leader in his first-ever Dakar stage.

It proved a tougher day for past Dakar winners Giniel de Villiers and Nani Roma, with both the Toyota Gazoo Racing driver – who finished with a slow puncture – and the new Borgward recruit losing more than 20 minutes.

Two-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Romain Dumas, who had previous outings in a privateer Peugeot, took the start in a DXX buggy developed by his RD Limited team.

But the factory Porsche GT racer dropped out just over 65km into the event as his car caught fire and he was forced to climb out.

The other DXX, campaigned under the Rebellion banner by the LMP1 team’s owner Alexandre Pesci, remains in the race.

The Premiere Motorsport Podcast