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Strong start for Ocon as Perez struggles at Spa

Esteban Ocon, Force India, Belgian Grand Prix
© XPB 

Force India's Esteban Ocon enjoyed a solid start to his Belgian Grand Prix weekend. The 20-year-old French driver was eighth fastest in both morning and afternoon sessions at Spa-Francorchamps.

"The day was reasonably clean and tidy," said Ocon, who made his Formula 1 début at the circuit with Manor one year ago.

"I managed to cover a lot of laps, even with the red flag and the rain shower in second practice," he added.

"The feeling with the car is already pretty good. Things look promising for a strong performance tomorrow."

Ocon was the first driver to set a time on Friday, and in the process he laid to rest speculation on whether 2017 car regulations would allow drivers to take the circuit's most famous corner without lifting.

"This track is very impressive in a Formula 1 car. As we expected, I was able to take Eau Rouge flat on my first lap."

But the day didn't go quite as smoothly for his more experienced team mate Sergio Perez. He was 14th fastest in FP1, eight tenths slower than Ocon, and then rose to 12th place in FP2 by closing the gap to half a second.

"The morning session was compromised a little bit with a few small issues," he explained. "We were changing a lot of things on the car so I didn’t do a huge amount of laps. Not as many as we would have liked.

"The afternoon was better and I was beginning to find a good feeling with the car.

"The important thing is that we know where we need to work and the direction we need to take," he added. "I’m feeling confident we will be in better shape tomorrow.

"As Esteban has shown, the pace of the car is quite competitive and we have a good opportunity to qualify well tomorrow."

"It has been a fairly typical Spa Friday," summarised Force India's chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer. "Sergio didn’t have the smoothest [FP1] session with some downtime in the garage.

"In the afternoon we thought the rain was coming," he continued. "We prioritised our runs to ensure we collected the most important tyre data with the race in mind.

"We’re not expecting much more rain over the weekend. But in Spa you can never predict the weather with a huge amount of confidence!

"The drivers are generally happy with the car balance," he summed up. "But there are some areas we can improve overnight which will give us more performance heading into qualifying.”

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