On the face of it, Esteban Ocon’s 10th-place finish at the Turkish Grand Prix doesn’t seem particularly noteworthy. But when arriving at the chequered flag, he’d achieved something no other driver has in over two decades - complete a whole Grand Prix without coming in the pits once.
Yep, the Frenchman managed to eke out 57 laps from his intermediate tyres. Normally, drivers are obliged to run two compounds of tyre during a race, but those rules are suspended during wet races, And so, the Alpine-Renault pilot was free to stay out of the pits all race.
The last time a driver completed a full Formula 1 race without entering the pits once was the 1997 Monaco GP. Mika Salo made his Bridgestone wet weather tyres last 61 laps, taking fifth place in an uncompetitive Tyrell-Ford.
Drivers got through whole races on single sets of tyres all season long in 2005 due to infamous (and short-lived) rules that only allowed boot swaps in the event of a puncture, but with refuelling in operation that year, avoiding a pit stop was impossible. The whole grid technically did a whole ‘race’ without changing tyres at the disrupted Belgian Grand Prix earlier this year, but the less said about that the better.
At Istanbul Park last weekend, other drivers attempted to make their Pirelli inters last, notably Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton, but Ocon was the only driver who pulled it off. Leclerc led the Grand Prix for a spell after eventual winner Valteri Bottas pitted for fresh rubber, but as drivers behind got through the graining phase and sped up, the Ferrari driver was forced to pit on lap 47.
Hamilton lasted it out until lap 50 and voiced his displeasure at the late strategy call leaving him in the clutches of Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly on better-scrubbed tyres. The Mercedes driver, in damage limitation mode following a 10-place engine change grid drop, was able to hold him off to take fifth.
Hamilton expressed shock when told of Ocon’s tyre endurance exploits after the race. “If Ocon did it, then I could do it, for sure,” he said. As far as Ocon was concerned, though, it was a risky move. “One more lap, I think we would’ve got a puncture,” he remarked. His tyres did look decidedly second-hand, and he’s suggested that the worst one might be hung up somewhere at Alpine’s Enstone factory. A fitting tribute.