Sporting a fuchsia-colored helmet inside the cockpit of his bright pink Force India car, it’s been hard not to miss Esteban Ocon this year.
With a string of top 10 finishes in what is his first full season in Formula One, the Frenchman is fast gaining a reputation as one of the sport’s future stars.
This weekend, Ocon will be looking to carry on where he left off before F1’s summer break, as the teams and drivers return for the Belgian Grand Prix.
Only Sebastian Vettel Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have scored more points finishes than Ocon this term — a statistic that may surprise some observers, but not so the quietly confident 20-year-old.
“I did expect to have a strong half of the season first half … my target was to be scoring points at every race,” Ocon told CNN’s The Circuit.
“I still haven’t achieved my podium and that’s what I want to achieve before the end of the season.”
A top three finish in one of the nine remaining races may sound a little fanciful, but having raced in F1 during the second half of the 2016 — he replaced Rio Haryanto at Manor Racing in August last year — Ocon can add a touch of experience to his youthful endeavors.
“When you get into a track where you have former experience from the previous year it just helps — it’s normal, you get into the rhythm faster … and it feels easier,” he said.
Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley told Sky F1 that Ocon has the same potential as Max Verstappen, but the young Frenchman hasn’t had things all his own way in 2017.
While Ocon has accrued 45 points in the drivers’ championship that’s still nine points behind teammate Sergio Perez. The pair also clashed on track at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in June — prematurely ending Perez’s race when Ocon squeezed the Mexican into the barriers.
The young Frenchman insists there is no lingering bad blood between the pair following the accident.
“It was a racing incident. We discussed it with the team. I discussed it with ‘Checo’ as well and you know it happens,” Ocon said. “For sure it’s not nice … we lost big (points) but you know we will move on from that and now we’re thinking about the future.
“The team policy is just keep racing. We can’t lose any opportunity for the team to score big points so yeah we’ll keep racing, but fair.”
That future, as far as Ocon is concerned, will involve finishing ahead of his more experienced Mexican teammate come the end of the season.
“I’m not here to be behind him all the time,” he said. “He is a very very strong driver, one of the best in the grid but I want to beat him and that’s also my goal.”
All eyes will be on Hamilton and Vettel as the F1 season resumes at Spa Francorchamps — the German leads the Briton by a slender 14 points — but the battle between the two Force India’s is an intriguing sub-plot that also looks set to go down to the wire.
The 2017 Belgian Grand Prix takes place on the Sunday August 27.