Ocon predicts lap records in F1 this season

Formula One F1 - Pre Season Testing - Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain - February 19, 2020 Renault's Esteban Ocon in action during testing REUTERS/Albert Gea

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Renault’s Esteban Ocon expects lap records to be smashed in Formula One this season after impressive times on the first day of testing in Spain on Wednesday.

The Frenchman, a former Force India driver returning after a year spent on the sidelines as Mercedes reserve and test driver, said he had never felt so much grip as he did with the new Renault RS20.

“We’re already faster than the fastest lap time of last year’s first day,” he told reporters. “I think the cars are just evolving year by year.”

The rules are largely unchanged this year, ahead of a major shakeup planned for 2021, and the Pirelli tyres are also the same.

Pirelli’s racing head Mario Isola told Reuters last month that he expected cars to be around 1-1.5 seconds a lap faster due to continued development.

Ocon, who is team mate to Australian Daniel Ricciardo, drove the Renault for the first time at a limited mileage ‘shakedown’ at the Barcelona circuit on Monday and the 23-year-old said even that had been impressive.

“I never went that fast in some corners before, so it feels good. It’s definitely exciting, because that’s just going to go faster and faster,” he added.

“We’re going to probably break all the records of lap times I reckon this year.”

The season starts in Australia on March 15.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge