MONZA, Italy -- Esteban Ocon is eyeing a first career podium at the Italian Grand Prix after his heroics in qualifying.
Ocon qualified a career-best third on the grid for the Monza race in a thrilling, rain-affected Q3 on Saturday afternoon. It puts the Force India driver on the second row ahead of Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas and the all-Ferrari third row, but behind Lance Stroll in a Williams car Force India expects to have the edge on when it comes to race pace.
When asked if the key to his race would be getting past Stroll early, he replied: "We're usually faster so that's okay. More the others... Let's see.
"For sure, we don't underestimate the Williams. They're very fast and they have the same engine as us, which will be harder to pass. I am confident. For sure, the Ferrari will be hard to keep behind."
Ocon's qualifying performance was a welcome boost to Force India after it was forced to rebuke both its drivers for a collision at Spa-Francorchamps, resulting in the team confirming Ocon and Sergio Perez will not be allowed to race freely in future. Force India have squandered several big opportunities for a podium this year -- notably Canada and Baku, where a win was also on the cards -- and Ocon is determined not to let another one slip through his fingers.
"I want to stay on the podium. I will push to stay there. If it's impossible, I will try to score the maximum points that I can but definitely I want that podium. It's the target I have set to myself since the beginning of the season so I want to get it."