Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Miami International Autodrome, 2022

Why Ocon said Alpine’s radio order to help Alonso was “not possible” to obey

2022 Miami Grand Prix

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Esteban Ocon was unwilling to follow Alpine’s order to back off at the end of the Miami Grand Prix to minimise the impact of his team mate’s five-second penalty.

The team later decided the instruction had been “unnecessary”. But, in a subsequent twist, Fernando Alonso received a further penalty, which dropped him out of the points entirely.

Alonso was given his original five-second time penalty for a collision with Pierre Gasly. As the race drew to a close Alonso was leading a close train of cars comprising himself, Mick Schumacher, Ocon and Sebastian Vettel.

The sequence of events began with what may have been a cunning move by Alonso. On lap 53 he cut across the turn 14-15 chicane. While this could have been accidental, it may also have been an attempt to deprive Schumacher behind him of DRS.

When Schumacher lost DRS, Ocon pounced
Having cut the chicane, Alonso reached the detection line after turn 16 more than a second before Schumacher, who was therefore unable to use DRS. The stewards took note of Alonso’s failure to keep within the track limits.

Schumacher’s loss of DRS allowed Ocon to attack him at the next corner. The Haas driver repelled the Alpine, but Vettel came past the pair of them. As Schumacher attempted to retake the place at turn one they collided, allowing Ocon through.

Alonso’s race engineer Karel Loos updated him on the developments going on behind: “Schumacher and Vettel touched at turn one so they dropped back. Car behind is Esteban now, 2.6 seconds.”

“Can we open that gap?” Alonso asked. “Affirm, affirm,” Loos quickly replied.

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However when Ocon was told the team wanted him to back off and hold back the pursuing Alexander Albon, he was unwilling. “I’m getting overtaken if I back off,” he told his race engineer Josh Peckett. Having seen how swiftly Schumacher came under attack when he lost the DRS, Ocon knew he might be just as vulnerable to Albon if he slowed down.

Race start, Miami International Autodrome, 2022
Gallery: 2022 Miami Grand Prix in pictures
Ocon maintained his pace and asked the team to keep him updated on the situation. Alonso was building the five-second gap he needed over Albon, and as the final lap began Alpine told Ocon his team mate had enough margin in hand.

Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer acknowledged the team had asked Ocon to pull off a tricky feat by slowing to help Alonso. “It’s difficult to do that,” he said.

“The plan was to make sure that we had that five-second buffer and Esteban could help once he was past Mick Schumacher. Once he was past Mick then he’s got a role to play, he could help out with achieving that five second buffer.

“But as it turned out, it was unnecessary because Fernando was quicker than Albon who was the first five seconds behind.”

Unfortunately for Alonso the stewards decided he had “gained a lasting advantage” with that curious turn 14-15 corner cut, and handed him a second five-second time penalty. Having originally fallen from eighth to ninth, the further sanction dropped Alonso out of the points completely.

It wasn’t the only time Alonso ran wide at that corner. Four laps later he did so again, this time with a noticeable puff of smoke as he locked a wheel. On that occasion the stewards let him off. “Although the driver of car 14 [Alonso] left the track and rejoined, the time difference to the two following cars (31 [Ocon] and 23 [Albon]) remained unchanged, thus the stewards concluded that no lasting advantage was gained,” they added.

Alpine seemingly hadn’t seen Alonso’s second penalty coming. Had they done so, would they have asked Ocon to hold Albon up by another five seconds?

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Esteban Ocon’s team radio from the final laps

Ocon rebuffed the team’s call to back off:

Peckett Okay mate so Albon car behind. We need to hold them up. We need a five-second gap to Fernando because he’s got a penalty. Back the cars behind up please.
Ocon No I can’t do that.
Peckett Do it now, please. Do it now. Back the cars…
Ocon I cannot do it!
Peckett Esteban it’s an instruction…
Ocon I’m getting overtaken if I back off. I’m getting overtaken if I back off. It’s not possible guys, I tell you. I can do [unclear] but this is not possible

In the laps that followed Alpine kept Ocon aware of Alonso’s gap over Albon:

Ocon How far are they behind?
Peckett 2.5 behind, 2.5. Three laps.
Ocon And Fernando?
Peckett Four-and-a-half.
Ocon Let me know the situation on the last lap.
Peckett Copy that. SOC eight or anti-overtake to recharge the battery, please. SOC eight or anti-overtake.
Peckett Okay mate Albon 3.2 behind.
Ocon He’s pulling away, no? And Fernando’s pulling away as well, no?
Peckett 5.5 second gap at the moment. I’ll keep you updated.
Ocon Okay.

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By the end of the race Alonso had the five-second gap he needed, though he lost half a second on the final tour:

Peckett 2 laps remaining. Gap 5.2.
Peckett Gap 5.6, 5.6.
Peckett Gap 5.9, gap 5.9.
Peckett Last lap, last lap.
Ocon How is it now?
Peckett Gap six seconds.
Ocon Okay are we good?
Peckett We are good for the moment. Push to the end.
Peckett Gap 5.5 seconds. Push to the end.
Peckett And that is the chequered flag. So scenario 12 please. And get some drinks onboard.
Peckett Copy that.
Peckett Okay mate. So that puts us P8, well done.
Ocon Fantastic strategy guys, fantastic strategy guys. We can discuss the end but its… we can discuss the end.

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2022 Miami Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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5 comments on “Why Ocon said Alpine’s radio order to help Alonso was “not possible” to obey”

  1. I’m not normally bothered by team orders – doing whats best for your employer is reasonable.
    But, to use them to take away the impact of a penalty leaves me uncomfortable. Alonso made a mistake and received a penalty for it, to be honest he deserved penalties more often that he received them in this race.
    Those penalties should have an impact on his result.

    I have no doubt that other teams would have done similar, so this isn’t a complaint aimed directly at Alpault but it still leaves a bad taste.

  2. I am so surprised at the enormous credit that Ocon retains since his joining F1. He’s never done anything outstanding (was behind Perez in his two seasons at FI/RP). Then he was zeroed by Ricciardo and has not been able to match Alonso (and I think Alonso is not who he used to be …). I only remember Ocon for his fights with Perez (which many of them were Ocon’s own aggressiveness and others Perez’s) his crashing into Verstappen in Brazil and his recent fights with Alonso (yet another teammate). He seems to race teammates more aggressively than others. Please correct me if you remember a memorable race in his tally. His two podiums were a function of lucky situations and decent driving but just that … Anyway, this is not to bash Ocon but I just don’t see anything special in him …

    1. I find Ocon to be an absolute t-u-r-d. As you mentioned, he’s more interested in fighting and finishing in front of teammates above everything else. While his battles with Perez were more often than not Perez’s fault, Ocon was not blameless. He constantly played an innocent or victim card even though he knew he was at fault to a huge degree.

      Since then, he’s been a real selfish racer… a selfish racer with mediocre talent. There’s no way in hell he would push himself for securing a great team result, like Alonso’s massive favour to him in Hungary last year. He hasn’t beaten any teammate since he entered the sport, and as much as I dislike saying it, Alonso is far past his prime. He just doesn’t have the speed anymore, but even then, he’s better than Ocon in prime form.

      I dont understand why Alpine would sign such a mediocre talent, with poor team spirit, and poor attitude for a long contract. I can’t wait for Alonso to thrash him this season, and Piastri to thrash him from next season onwards.

  3. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    11th May 2022, 11:12

    Bit odd that Ocon could not held up those behind him, for sure in Mickey Mouse section he could have held up them without much risk to himself.

  4. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    12th May 2022, 12:33

    I’ve never really understood why people rate Ocon. He’s alright but seems preoccupied in fighting irrelevant or useless battles that end up harming himself later on, causing collisions he could have avoided by using his head and really doesn’t act like a team player.

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