Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen leading the way as F1 ‘can overtake football’

Max Verstappen prevails in world title shoot-out

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Alpine driver Esteban Ocon believes Formula 1 can compete with and even ‘overtake’ football in terms of excitement – but only if the sport can produce closer racing throughout the field. Ocon had a solid 2021 season, finishing P11 just seven points behind two-time world champion and Alpine teammate Fernando Alonso.

The Frenchman insisted the sport has progressed in recent years in terms of becoming more entertaining, particularly following the epic 2021 season.

Red Bull star Max Verstappen secured his maiden world title with a dramatic and controversial final lap overtake of Mercedes superstar Lewis Hamilton at the 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The drama has attracted a new market and audience for the sport, making it more mainstream thanks to Netflix’s popular ‘Drive to Survive’ series.

While Mercedes and Red Bull contested the world titles, the midfield became increasingly competitive – and Ocon even secured the first win of his career at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

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A remarkable 13 of the 20 drivers made it onto the podium last season, which is incredible.

Ocon is confident the growth of F1 – even from within his social circle – can help the sport compete with the biggest in the world. 

If the racing remains close and competitive, Ocon sees no reason F1 cannot become the most popular sport in the world.

“If the cars are closer together, Formula 1 can even overtake football in terms of excitement because everyone is talking about Formula 1,” the Frenchman said, quoted by Motorsport-Total as per Planet F1.

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“I have friends who hadn’t been involved with it before, but now they are all over it.”

Ocon believes the new regulations will improve the sport as the playing field is levelled out. 

“I can still remember 2017 and 2018,” Ocon added.

“That’s when a sixth place felt like a win. You just didn’t have a chance for a podium or even a lead lap.

“We’ve seen a lot of different cars on the podium.

“That’s great, that’s exactly how it should be.”

The 25-year-old also said the addition of new formats – including sprint qualifying which was trialled in 2021 – has also been beneficial for the sport.

He believes it is another opportunity for drivers and teams to make up places and gain points.

“It gave us a chance to fight, even though we weren’t actually fast enough for the top 10,” he added.

The 23-race 2022 campaign begins on 18-20 March, with winter testing for the all-new generation of cars underway from 23 February.

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