Pic planning early start for Korean GP

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Charles Pic is set to make an early trip to Korea ahead of next weekend’s grand prix as he looks to adapt to the climate and location in time for the race on Sunday, comparing his preparations to those undertaken ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix.

Pic has enjoyed a strong season so far, proving himself to be the fastest of the four ‘backmarker’ runners from Caterham and Marussia across the course of the year. However, in recent races, teammate Giedo van der Garde has posed a stiff challenge to the Frenchman, but Pic will be keen on re-establishing his dominance in Yeongam next weekend.

“I’ll be back on the F1 trail as early as next Monday when I leave for South Korea,” Pic explained. “Like Singapore, I’m flying out early to get used to the time difference and climate.”

Despite the circuit not being a favorite among drivers and personnel travelling to Korea, Pic is a fan of the track which was intended to be half-permanent/half-street circuit.

“I must admit that I enjoy the Yeongam circuit, which has some excellent fast sections and three tricky hairpins. On the technical side, the big question will be tires. Last year we had a lot of problems with the fronts, while normally it’s the rears we have to look after, so it will be a case of monitoring if we have the same issues this time around. All we can do is wait and see.”

Pic’s future with Caterham is uncertain following Heikki Kovalainen’s entry into the race for a seat with the team in 2014. The Finn is thought to be in line to partner either Pic or van der Garde, placing pressure on the two current drivers for the rest of the season.

F1 2017 driver review: Esteban Ocon

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Esteban Ocon

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 31
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P5 (Spain, Mexico)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 87
Championship Position: 8th

A shining star in Mercedes’ junior programme, Esteban Ocon vaulted fellow youngster Pascal Wehrlein in the pecking order to secure a seat at Force India for 2017 – and boy, did he live up to the hype.

Ocon arrived at Force India with half a season of racing under his belt after his outings with Manor late in 2016, but wasted little time in settling in, scoring points on debut in Australia after winning a thrilling three-way fight with Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso.

The Frenchman spent much of the year close to teammate Sergio Perez – even if things did get a little too close in Canada, Baku and, finally, Spa, prompting the team to introduce team orders – and impressed the entire paddock with his displays.

While no podium was forthcoming, Ocon was often leading the midfield fight, enjoying three straight finishes ahead of Perez from Japan to Mexico. Given how well Perez is rated on-track in the paddock, to have convincingly beaten him in such fashion did a lot for Ocon’s reputation.

The term ‘Oconsistency’ also came into F1’s dictionary as he set a new record for consecutive finishes from his first race, with his retirement in Brazil ending the streak at 27 grands prix. It was also his first retirement in a single-seater race since the 2014 Macau Grand Prix.

The highlight moment arguably came at Monza, though, when Ocon stuck his Force India third on the grid through torrential rain in qualifying. While he would drop to P6 at the checkered flag, the display nevertheless cemented his place as one of F1’s rising stars.

Mercedes rates Ocon very highly, and with Valtteri Bottas’ future beyond 2018 already being questioned by the paddock, a good season could see the youngster move on up to the top table of F1 for 2019. His progression in the next 12 months will be fascinating to keep track of.

Season High: Lining up P3 on the grid at Monza after a rainy qualifying.

Season Low: Clashing with Perez in Baku, costing Force India a possible podium.