Vettel made his 299th and final grand prix start in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, ending his career with a 10th-place finish for Aston Martin.
The weekend was filled with tributes to the outgoing Vettel, who announced back in July he would be retiring at the end of the season.
Alpine driver Ocon spent the early part of the race battling with Vettel, keeping him at bay despite coming under pressure until making his first pit stop on lap 14. Ocon would ultimately go on to grab seventh, while Vettel’s longer first stint took him out of contention in their battle.
Reflecting on his fight with Vettel after the race, Ocon said it was a “very nice battle” but called it “a bit stressful.”
“I didn’t want to be the one touching him in his last race!” Ocon said after the chequered flag. “But yeah, it was a good fight. And a fair fight, like always with Seb. It was good fun.”
Ocon leads Vettel early in the race
Photo by: Alpine
Ocon, who started one spot ahead of Vettel in eighth, said he did not go into the scrap having made a conscious decision to stay away from incidents, saying he instead “made a conscious decision to keep him behind” as “that’s what I needed to do at the time.”
He added: “I knew when I was going to pit. Our fresher tyres were struggling, particularly on the medium. But after that it was better.”
Ocon’s Alpine teammate, Fernando Alonso, said on Saturday after qualifying that he would “take care” of Vettel in the opening stages of the race after starting right behind the Aston Martin, and ensure he stayed out of trouble. It didn’t turn out that way, as the Spaniard remained behind the German in the first stint and later retired.
Alpine entered the Abu Dhabi season finale defending a 19-point lead over McLaren in the fight to finish fourth in the constructors’ championship.
Ocon spent much of the race adrift from McLaren’s Lando Norris, only to close up on the Briton in the latter stages as his hard tyres proved more durable over the stint.
Esteban Ocon, Alpine F1 Team, with his partner Elena Berri
Photo by: Michael Potts / Motorsport Images
Ocon crossed the line just one second behind Norris, believing one more lap would probably have been enough to get sixth.
“It was a very close race the whole way, but that doesn’t matter,” he said. “All the targets that we set ourselves are accomplished. We finished fourth in the constructors’ championship. Thank God for that! I lost two-and-a-half kilos this weekend in stress and being too focused.
“It’s also my best season in Formula 1 in terms of points. I’m very pleased with that. It was a good job by the whole team to have developed the car so much over the year.
“Hopefully we can close the gap even more for next year.”