Esteban Ocon recounted his frightening incident at the end of the 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where he almost ran over dozens of photographers gathered in the pit entrance, and explained how close the situation came to catastrophe.
Running in ninth and over two-thirds of the lap behind the leaders, Ocon hadn’t pitted all race so came in at the end of lap 50, but with Sergio Perez about to cross the line and lap 51 to finish the race, the FIA were already setting up the parc ferme area.
That meant photographers were gathering in the pit entrance to get a view of the winners’ area while the pitlane was still live, and as Ocon himself recounted, it nearly had disastrous consequences.
“I’m arriving at 300 kph, braking at the last moment, I see the barriers, I see the people around, I mean this is crazy. It could’ve been a big, big one today,” Ocon told reporters after the race.
“I had to break and avoid the people, it could’ve been a major, major incident. it was close, I had to lift off, back off. If I missed the breaking point, it’s it’s a big disaster, so yeah a crazy moment.”
Ocon clear on changes that need to be made
The person responsible for setting up the parc ferme area was called to the stewards post-race, to find out why photographers were released into the pitlane when they were.
Ocon was running ninth after starting in the pitlane but hadn’t pitted for the whole race, and F1 drivers are required to use two different compounds of tyre in dry races or face disqualification.
Nico Hulkenberg was in a similar situation to him and had pitted a lap early, alongside Mercedes driver George Russell who was going for the fastest lap, but it was clear that Ocon still needed to pit before starting his final lap.
“I don’t understand why we’re starting to prep the podium and the ceremony when we’re still racing,” Ocon added. “So it’s definitely something to needs to be discussed, it’s something that we don’t want to see but I’m sure the FIA have seen it and they will take action.
“You need to wait for all the cars to pass the chequered flag and ensure that there’s no racing in the pit lane anymore, until you start prepping the podium, there’s no mystery, it’s very simple.”