F1 photographer blames FIA for Esteban Ocon ‘shambles’

Esteban Ocon completed all but the final lap of the 2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix on the same set of Hard tyres.

Formula 1 photographer Evgeniy Safronov has spoken out on the “certainly dangerous” incident which occurred on the final lap of Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where Esteban Ocon narrowly avoided hitting several photographers.

After starting the race from the pit-lane, Ocon was fitted with the white-walled Hard compound tyre for the beginning of the race, in the hope that he’d get a cheap pit-stop towards the end of the race.

Unfortunately for the Frenchman, Sunday’s race was a very uneventful one, with no late red flags or incidents having happened.

As a result, Alpine called Ocon into the pits to do his pit-stop at the end of the penultimate lap, something it seemed the FIA had forgotten about.

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As he entered the pits, the pit-lane was bustling with photographers and F1 personnel, who were busy getting into position at parc ferme.

What unfolded was complete chaos, as Ocon had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting those darting across the entry to the pit-lane.

Thankfully, he avoided everyone, with the Alpine driver having admitted after the race that it “could have been a big, big one”.

“I’m arriving at 300kph,” Ocon said, “braking very late, and I see the people all around. Crazy.

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“It could have been a big, big one today.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner also noted after the race that the FIA must “review” the incident, given how deadly it could’ve been.

“That’s something that needs a review because Esteban is within his rights to pit on the last lap and finish the race in the pitlane if he wanted to,” Horner told Sky Sports F1.

The FIA did investigate the incident after the race and admitted that they must “reconsider these procedures to ensure that this situation does not occur again”.

“The FIA representatives expressed their regret at what happened and assured us that they would do so in time for the next event,” the FIA added.

Safronov was one of the photographers down by parc ferme and saw the chaos unfold, with the Russian having revealed that the governing body told the photographers and officials that they could enter the pits “a little earlier than usual”.

“I was there,” Safronov said.

“It’s a great example of when the race was not the best so we need to discuss something. And we need better headlines than all the ‘It could have ended in tragedy’.

“I’ll tell you what happened.

“This time the FIA gave the go-ahead a little earlier than usual. And it wasn’t just photographers but also officials.

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“Yes, it was certainly dangerous,” he noted.

“It shouldn’t have happened.

“But in the very, very last case, there was a person behind the wheel and his car had brakes.”