Bahrain GP: Why Ocon’s Move on Tsunoda Wasn’t Like Hamilton/Verstappen Controversy

Published 04/01/2021, 6:30 AM EDT
Formula One F1 – Pre-Season Testing – Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain – March 12, 2021 Alpine’s Esteban Ocon in action during testing REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

When Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton to steal the race lead at the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix, he overstepped track limits. As a result, he was ordered to return the lead from Hamilton.This decision led to a lot of controversy, especially about the implementation of rules regarding track limits at the race. Esteban Ocon had also found himself in a similar situation as Verstappen, but he was not penalized for it.


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F1 insider Will Buxton wrote about why this incident wasn’t fined.

This move happened at the now infamous Turn 4 of the Bahrain International Circuit. The Frenchman tried to pass rookie Yuki Tsunoda when he tried to move on the outside of the Japanese driver. While doing so, he completed the move while off the track limits.


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So, given that Ocon wasn’t penalized for doing the same thing Verstappen was punished for, fans and teams alike began to question the consistency of the rules.

Buxton explains why Esteban Ocon wasn’t penalized

On his Twitter account, Will Buxton opened up about the Ocon-Tsunoda incident.

He wrote, “Seen many comments about Ocon passing Tsunoda off track on T4 exit in BahrainGP but not being told to give the place back. From the onboard, the presence of Yuki’s front left suggests he ran Esteban off. Can imagine this was seen as a 50:50. Penalise both/neither. Nil sum gain.”

Buxton explained the rules further while doing so. He wrote, “In other words, did Ocon gain a lasting advantage under 27.3? Possibly. But under Article IV.2.b of the sporting code, Tsunoda arguably didn’t leave him room. 6 of 1, half a dozen of the other.

“Could they have penalised both? Yes. Or neither. Again it’s a matter of consistency.”

The Brit spoke about the difficulties of adjudicating this incident. He wrote, “The move lasted a few corners after this so is it comparable with the VER moment? Arguably. Because running wide allowed Ocon to keep his foot in and continue an overtaking move which ultimately came off, even if Yuki did take it back later. A lot more parameters than VER/HAM.

Is the Frenchman under pressure to perform for Alpine?

Esteban Ocon has put on underwhelming performances since joining Alpine; he has struggled to come to terms with the car and that has continued with the A521. If he wants to retain his seat beyond 2021, he will need to turn in great performances, and quickly.

He also won’t be helped by the fact that teammate Fernando Alonso has hit the ground running. Even though the Spaniard retired in the race, he was able to build up credit in the bank with the way he guided the team to Q3. Ocon, on the other hand, is in a no-win situation as whatever he does will not be enough to tilt the needle in his favor.


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BARCELONA, SPAIN: Esteban Ocon of France and Renault Sport F1 looks on from the garage during Day Two of F1 Winter Testing at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

If he beats Alonso consistently, it will be taken as him beating an older driver who was away from the sport. But if he doesn’t, he will be pilloried for not beating Alonso for the same reason.

So, the Frenchman will need to get his feet under the table quickly. Otherwise, he will risk his F1 future in 2022.


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Ashish Thomas

211 articles

Ashish Thomas is an F1 author at EssentiallySports. Having followed motorsports since age 5, Ashish holds an enviable knowledge of F1 history. Ashish holds extensive experience in sports writing, having previously worked for SportsQuest and Fansided.