Motor racing-Ocon keeps the faith after dismal qualifying for Alpine

Formula One F1 - Bahrain Grand Prix - Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain - March 1, 2024 Alpine's Esteban Ocon during practice REUTERS/Rula Rouhana

SAKHIR, Bahrain (Reuters) - Esteban Ocon said he trusted Renault-owned Alpine to fix their problems after a dismal start to the Formula One season with both cars qualifying on the back of the Bahrain Grand Prix starting grid.

Ocon qualified 19th and fellow-Frenchman Pierre Gasly was last of all.

"We are in this situation, I am in this situation, no-one likes to be at the back, we are all competitors in this team and it's very important to be united, keep the chin up and move forward," Ocon told reporters.

"This team some years ago created a winning car and those ideas were made in the same places as today, in Viry and Enstone," he added, alluding to the French and English factories.

"We can be repeating all these things and I trust the team to be making a step forward."

Alpine finished sixth overall last season, dropping from fourth in 2022.

They parted with principal Otmar Szafnauer last July, with long-standing sporting director Alan Permane and chief technical officer Pat Fry also leaving. Permane is now at Red Bull's RB and Fry at Williams.

"Obviously today the reality is that we lack pace especially on short runs, we'll see tomorrow exactly on a long run where we are," said Ocon.

"After testing we had clues that that's where we were going to be. We were not sure, obviously the reality is today it is the case. We are at the back, we are lacking pace, we need to keep pushing on together to make a difference in the future."

Ocon said the improvement of Aston Martin and McLaren last season gave grounds for hope.

"It's not because we are here now that in five to six races it'll be the same story so we keep working," he said. "Hopefully we'll have a clean race and we can move forward to Jeddah with more ideas for the next one."

Gasly agreed: "We know where we are and the team is pushing flat out and working exceptionally hard to keep bringing improvements to the car. Most importantly, we're sticking together as a team," he said.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Christian Radnedge)

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