The French team slipped down F1’s pecking order in its transition to its new A524 chassis, and has failed to recapture its regular position in challenging for points from last season as the early-spec car has lacked outright pace.

This has coincided with a wider performance gap between the top five teams and the bottom five, effectively leaving the drivers in the latter group having to wait for retirements in order to claim points.

After the quintet of Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren and Aston Martin locked out the top 10 in the Bahrain opener, Lance Stroll’s early retirement from the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix opened an opportunity for a sixth team to trouble the scorers – which Haas and Nico Hulkenberg duly took in Jeddah.

Ocon says that the current chasm in performance means that well-executed races will likely yield little in reward, which he admitted was tough to swallow.

“It’s the worst feeling you have, and I honestly hate that when you do a good weekend, and I’m not able to enter the top 10 and score points in the race, there’s no reward for you at the end,” Ocon said .

“But it’s up to us to try and figure out, and get more performance and get closer to these cars.

“It’s tough to go through a weekend and push as hard as you can, also to mentally be doing the maximum, knowing that there could be no reward in the end.

“But it’s part of the job; you need to do the best you can with what you have in hand, and that’s why I’m here.”

Esteban Ocon, Alpine

Photo by: Alpine

RB’s Daniel Ricciardo was more hopeful in his assessment of the current pecking order, suggesting that any given circuit could create a situation where one of the top five teams falls down the order.

He used last year’s Mexican Grand Prix as an example, where the Australian put his car fourth on the grid despite the then-AlphaTauri team having been glued to the bottom of the constructors’ championship throughout most of 2023.

“My approach is ‘maybe this track suits us more than the last track’; these things can also be very track dependent,” the Australian remarked.

“You know most of the time where the fast cars are, but Mexico last year we were last in constructors at the time I qualified fourth.

“Coming into that weekend, no one would have ever expected that. You can have a good weekend like that and drive well, whatever, but the car obviously works better in that circuit.

“So there’s always a bit of hope that you also hold on to coming into every weekend, so I’m always excited.”

Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas suggested that extending the points-paying positions beyond the top 10 would help given the current spread of performance, and inject more battles into the bottom half of the order.

That being said, he added that it might not be necessary if the 2026 rules create a more varied field.

“In this situation, I think [awarding points outside of the top 10] would be more optimal. But who knows what the future holds?” the Finn explained.

“Maybe with the new regs in 26, maybe it will be more mixed, so then top 10 is enough.

“But, now it seems to be pretty clear order in terms of the top five teams. After that, it is close. But Hulkenberg scored only one point right, so he is only one driver in that other end who you have scored.

“It would actually mean that if you are in P15 towards the end of the race, you still keep fighting and trying to get to the points. That would be different.”

Additional reporting by Matt Kew

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