Azerbaijan GP: Esteban Ocon recalls near “disaster” after pit lane chaos in Baku

Esteban Ocon has shared his perspective on the chaotic pit lane scenes in the closing stages of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

As he had started 19th, the Alpine driver decided to run an audacious tyre strategy. Ocon used the hard compound tyre for almost the entirety of the race – making his required pit stop on the last lap. However, race organisers had apparently forgotten about Ocon’s unorthodox plan.

When the Frenchman raced into Baku’s super-fast pit lane, hoards of media personnel were already congregating there. Ocon thus had to slow down even further – beneath the 80km/h speed limit – to avoid the crowds of people awaiting the arrival of race winner Sergio Perez.

Speaking after his p15 finish, Esteban Ocon said the pit lane incident was a huge near miss.

Esteban Ocon shares his viewpoint on pit lane chaos

“I had to release the accelerator,” explained the Alpine ace, via L’Equipe. “And I would not like to have been among those who were in the middle [of the pit lane], because it was very close to the entrance. If I had missed my braking point, it could have been a huge disaster.”

Ocon was confused as to how the media scrum was even present in the pits before the race ended.

“It was definitely scary,” he added, via Sky Sports. “I don’t know why everyone was starting to prep the podium. We’re still racing, you know – there’s all the time in the world to be doing so. It could have been a big issue for everyone there.

“I’m arriving at more than 300kph, braking as late as I can. They were just in front of the line as well, so if I miss my braking point… I had to avoid it all. Yeah, it was pretty scary, but all good, luckily.

“It was a close call, and something we don’t want to see.”

The FIA and stewards jumped into an investigation following this dangerous scenario.

FIA to take “immediate steps” to prevent Baku chaos from happening again

A statement from the Azerbaijan GP race stewards (via FIA) broke down their decision process.

They acknowledged that officials had begun to set up the “parc ferme” area before the race had finished. As a result, people had gathered in the pit lane whilst it was still open for stops.

Esteban Ocon was thus well within his rights to pit on the last lap due to the fact that the lane was open to racers.

“We noted that it was not unusual for the representatives to allow such persons into the pit lane just before the end of the race,” read the statement. “However, in this case, there was one driver that had to pit in the last lap. This created a very dangerous situation for those in the pits at the time.

“We considered that it was fortunate that there were no serious consequences on account of what happened today.”

The sports governing body will now adjust its post-race plans for the future.

“We walked through the relevant procedures and protocol with the FIA representatives in detail and required them to take immediate steps to reconsider these procedures and protocols with the relevant stakeholders.”

F1 and FIA officials’ new protocol should be in place for the Miami Grand Prix, which is next weekend. For now, though, Esteban Ocon will be relieved that this scary pit lane moment (through no fault of his own) did not have tragic consequences.

Featured image credit: Getty