Working hard during the winter break helped Esteban Ocon building more confidence, and allowed him to improve a lot, believes Marcin Budkowski.

Ocon came back to Formula 1 last year but struggled a lot against his former teammate Daniel Ricciardo. However, in 2021 things seem to be a bit different so far since the French driver is constantly achieving good results for Alpine.

Ocon qualified on the third row, both in Portimao and Barcelona, and he also managed to score points in the last three races.

The Alpine driver beat his two-time world champion, Fernando Alonso, in the last three rounds, both in qualifying and the race.

Many people recognized that the Frenchman improved a lot since last year, and one of them is Alpine executive director Marcin Budkowski.

“He improved throughout last year, and he was getting closer and closer to Daniel in qualifying,” Budkowski said of Ocon.

“Confidence is one thing – confidence in the team, confidence in himself. The podium did help.

“He did a lot of work during the winter. He is a significantly improved driver, and you can see it in the way he approaches the sessions.

“We made changes to his race engineering team, we changed his race engineer over the winter [Josh Peckett replaced Mark Slade in this role]. He’s bonding better with his race engineer and his team overall.

“That’s great because he can work in a much more constructive way than he was able to last year. And then it’s confidence, it builds up, especially in these kinds of qualifying burners.

“So if you have to put everything together and you need this kind of osmosis with the car and the team, this makes a difference.”

Budkowski was also really happy after seeing the step forward made by Alpine after a difficult start to the season.

“Honestly for me, it’s more important than the Portugal one,” Budkowski said.

“Portugal was great because we were on the back of two disappointing races. There was the pressure that we were putting on ourselves to perform.

“The beginning of the season wasn’t up to our expectations, so it was great. It was great for the team, it was great for the drivers, it was great for Esteban. It was great for everybody to be there on the third row in Portugal, but we knew the conditions were very tricky.

“We knew we improved the car. We wouldn’t quite know how much we improved it. Barcelona not only is a benchmark in Formula 1, in terms of where your car is, it’s also a circuit that wasn’t our favorite in the last few years, and we were particularly poor here last year.

“So it’s a combination of happiness and having confirmed, and a bit of relief that the gains we’re seeing are there, and we are making the progress we thought we were making.”

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