Esteban Ocon sees an opportunity for points next weekend in Baku, a venue where the Force India driver finished sixth last year on his first visit to Azerbaijan.
The Silverstone-based outfit’s pink panther has endured a rather low-profile start to his 2018 campaign, a relative under-performance which mirrors that of his team as Force India struggled to get its new VJM11 chassis up to speed.
Progress is in the cards however, and the 21-year-old is banking on his team’s improvements and Baku’s specific layout to reap some benefits come race day.
“Baku is a cool event. It’s so fast with the longest straight of the year, which is quite unusual for a street circuit,” says Ocon in Force India’s race preview.
“It produced probably the best race for fans last year. I love the atmosphere of city races and it’s a really interesting place to explore. I also enjoy the delayed schedule because we wake up later in the day and there is more chance to have a good night’s sleep.”
While water has flowed under the bridge, Ocon still remembers the events that transpired last year in Baku and the collision wwith team mate Sergio Perez that likelmy deprived Force India of a valuable podium finish.
“My first race in Baku last year was pretty eventful. So much happened in the race and it was definitely a missed opportunity for us,” he remembers.
“We were competitive so I hope we can be quick again this year. The racing down the main straight was really cool and if you pick up a tow you can find a huge speed advantage.
It is a place where you can go three or four cars wide, which is insane. It’s not the sort of racing you often see in Formula One so it’s quite exciting when it happens. There are good overtaking opportunities so you can make up a lot of ground even if you’re at the back.
“Baku is definitely a great chance for us to score points. The car is improving with each race and I can see how hard everybody is working to find more performance.
“At every race this year we’ve had new items to test and it’s the same this weekend. It’s still early days in the season and if we can unlock the potential in the car I think we can be up there fighting consistently at the front of the midfield.”