Esteban Ocon believes he would be Max Verstappen‘s equal if they had the same machinery, despite the Dutchman’s status as the fastest man in Formula 1 in 2023.
Despite previously being a Mercedes junior, Ocon has never had his shot in a top team while Verstappen‘s celebrating eighth season at Red Bull, where he’s taken a victory every single year.
Ocon and Verstappen have a rocky history after their 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix incident, but since then the latter’s become a double world-champion and leads Ocon by 166 points in the 2023 world championship.
“Sure, I see myself fighting with Verstappen fighting for a world title if we had the same car,” Ocon told DAZN. “Now Max is doing an incredible job, he is dominating with Red Bull.
“But I don’t care who the driver is, I want to fight for the championship. I’ve always believed in myself.”
The son of former F1 driver Jos Verstappen, Max only completed one season of junior single-seaters before he was handed a full-time Toro Rosso seat for 2015, aged just 17.
It only took just over a year for him to be promoted to Red Bull where Verstappen took a stunning debut win to announce his arrival at the top of F1.
Since then he’s grown to dominate F1 at the now-all-conquering Red Bull, and drew level with Ayrton Senna on 41 grand prix wins at the 2023 Canadian GP.
Though one year older than Verstappen, Ocon‘s route to F1 was a little more difficult. The son of a mechanic, Ocon‘s family sold their home and the garage to fund his karting career and lived in a motorhome while he was rising through the ranks.
He won F3 Europe and GP3 before Toto Wolff brought him to Mercedes‘ junior team, and after impressing for Manor and Force India/Racing Point, he was signed by Renault for 2020.
Ocon retains championship ambition
Just eight races into 2023, Ocon‘s already had a rollercoaster. From the highs of a Monaco podium and four consecutive pointscoring finishes to the lows of a crash with teammate Pierre Gasly, and his terrifying Baku pitlane incident, it’s been an eventful opening third of the year.
However, since that Melbourne collision – which Gasly apologised for – and the Azerbaijan GP, Ocon has been one of the standout drivers on the grid and he’s scored almost twice as many points as his teammate in 2023.
Alpine still look well away from being able to challenge for a world championship, but Ocon said a title crown remains his ultimate ambition in F1.
“We have a long road ahead of us, but my goal is to be world champion, nothing more,” Ocon added.
“The truth is I don’t want people to think I’m a tough guy because I’m a nice guy out there but my way of riding is hard. It’s probably true, but I’m happy with it.
“I don’t know what the future holds for me. At the moment I feel very good at Alpine. I feel we are making progress and I am fully confident.
“But in F1 you never know the future. I know the sacrifices I’ve made and everything I’ve had to go through to get to where I am. But this is just the beginning.”
Where is the next F1 2023 race?
With the F1 circus finished in Canada, the next race is the 2023 Austrian Grand Prix which will be held at the Red Bull Ring in the Styrian mountains over the weekend of June 30 to July 2.