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Esteban Ocon

Ocon hails WRC drivers’ ‘balls of steel’ after Monte Carlo run

Alpine Formula 1 driver Esteban Ocon has praised rally drivers’ “balls of steel” after he got his first taste of the discipline during the first two special stages of the Monte Carlo Rally 2021.

Ocon was at the wheel of an Alpine 110S as the official VIP course car under his usual race number 31, becoming the second driver on the current grid to have competed in the rally after Carlos Sainz hit the final two stages in a Megane R.S. in 2018.

The Frenchman said while the experience was an enjoyable one, it brought home the difficulty of competing in the WRC, and the driver was quick to praise the commitment of his road-going counterparts.

“Heroes! What else can I say?” Ocon told Autosport when asked his opinion of regular WRC drivers.

“I was watching the onboards already always, after the events, just to watch. And it looks fast, it looks well controlled when you watch [seven-time champion Sebastien] Ogier, when they cut the roads. And it looks cool.”

“But when you drive in real, it looks a lot more narrow, and a lot more difficult. So it's not the same animal when you are there in real.

“I tell you, it's very tricky so honestly, hats off to them. They have proper balls, balls of steel.”

The driver also touched on the difficulties of switching from F1 to rallying, with the addition of co-driver instructions and shifting grip on different parts of the course providing a distinct challenge from his usual work day.

"It was good fun, awesome. I really enjoyed my time on those roads," he said.

"[For a] first experience in rally, [it was] not the easiest one to start with.

"But yeah, I had a blast. I felt more and more comfortable, the more I was going through those roads. There's always like a lot of tricky parts, a lot of grip changes and all that, so it's very different to what I'm used to.

"You need to listen to the co-driver as well, which is not an easy thing. Get it in the right time, and when you are focusing in a corner, you already start to hear what's coming next.

"I was managing that a lot better in the end, and all in all, it was awesome fun. And the car was handling really well, so it was really good," Ocon said.

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