Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon, Las Vegas, 2023

“You didn’t listen to me”: Gasly’s frustration with Alpine wasn’t about team orders

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Were Alpine team mates Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon embroiled in another row over team orders?

That was the impression given by a radio message to Ocon which was played on the world television feed following the last Safety Car period during the Las Vegas Grand Prix. Ocon was told to “hold position” behind his team mate, then cruised past him into turn five.

Gasly had been angered by how the team managed its drivers five rounds earlier at Suzuka. But although he was far from happy on his radio in the closing stages of last weekend’s race, his frustration wasn’t directed at his team mate, and Ocon’s apparent act of insubordination wasn’t quite what it seemed.

The race began promisingly for Gasly, who achieved his best starting position of the season with fourth place on the grid. Despite having to start in a grid box slicked with oil, he got away well and was holding third place after the final Safety Car period.

However by the time the race restarted his hard tyres were 12 laps old. Other drivers had used the Safety Car period to pit for fresh rubber, but Alpine kept both their drivers out.

Although Ocon’s tyres were only three laps newer than Gasly’s, he was able to get them working much more quickly than his team mate, who grew frustrated at the team’s refusal to consider bringing him in for fresh rubber.

Gasly stays out during the Safety Car period

Gasly’s race engineer John Howard confirmed he should stay out when the Safety Car was deployed following the collision between George Russell and Max Verstappen – not the other Red Bull driver, as Howard told Gasly:

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Lap: 26/50 GAS: 1’54.475
Howard So Perez and Russell came together. Perez in the box.
Gasly [unclear] that call.
Howard Yes, please stay out. Stay out. And if we can get PU four position 11, PU four position 11. And in terms of gear usage for energy, we would really like turn one third gear and then second gear everywhere else.
Lap: 27/50 GAS: 2’39.651
Gasly Is it faster or is it just for energy?
Howard It is faster because of the energy.
Gasly Are Max and Leclerc on new tyres.
Howard Yep. Stand by. He’s on five-lap-old hards and then Perez on new hards. And remember to drink. So Piastri behind, we still believe needs to stop again. And we are P3.
Gasly How many laps to go?
Howard So we’ve got 23 remaining once you finish this one.
Gasly Yeah, check the front, I’m locking at the front left.
Howard There’s no issues, there are no issues from our side.
Gasly Okay then [unclear]. Going after stuff Just how many laps Piastri got on his tyre and who’s behind him?
Howard So Piastri on 10-lap-old hards. Behind him is Verstappen on new hard. And then Esteban is behind Verstappen, seven-lap-old hards.
Lap: 28/50 GAS: 2’45.291
Gasly How many laps on mine?
Howard Our tyres are 10 laps old. So lower gears in the slow speed is worth a tenth and a half, so it is faster.
Gasly Any feedback on GPA at the minutes where we can improve compared to the other car braking or specific corner?
Howard Yes. We’ll get back to you. So we’ve got some time to gain braking for turn five. This is compared to Esteban and to Russell.
Gasly How many metres?
Howard Stand by. Track is clear in turn 12. And the Safety Car is in this lap. We’re only talking about five metres or so, for turn five. Safety Car coming in this lap.

Ocon passes

Ocon said he didn’t hear Alpine’s late instruction for him to stay behind Gasly

However Gasly quickly found it hard to warm up his old tyres. Although he took a look at passing Perez at the restart, he was soon picked off by cars behind him.

“It just never recovered,” he said afterwards. “It was a very painful long last 25 laps on from there on.

“It’s obviously frustrating because the start was great. I started in the in the right train behind George and Charles [Leclerc] not too far ahead. I knew there was a big opportunity on the table but then on that hard tyre it was pretty much a nightmare.”

When Ocon caught his team mate at the end of lap 33, Alpine decided to tell their drivers not to fight each other. But they didn’t order Ocon to “hold position” until he exited turn 16, approaching the final corner.

According to Ocon, radio interference meant he didn’t hear the message properly. He dived down the inside of Gasly at turn one, and the pair diced through the following four corners, Ocon emerging ahead.

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Lap: 31/50 OCO: 1’38.174, GAS: 1’38.772
Howard So gap to Verstappen behind 0.5 and we really need to manage this front-right in seven and nine.
Howard So car behind is Esteban.
Lap: 32/50 OCO: 1’37.629, GAS: 1’37.736
Peckett Albon 1.2 behind. 18 laps to go. Let’s make sure we focus on getting to the end here. Howard So gap to Verstappen is 2.0. Gap to Esteban is 0.6 and we need second gear in nine and 12. And if we can get mode six. Mode six.
Lap: 33/50 OCO: 1’37.458, GAS: 1’37.805
Peckett Okay Esteban we want to hold the position for the moment please. Hold position for the moment, think about tyre management. Howard So Esteban behind 0.5.
Lap: 34/50 OCO: 1’37.810, GAS: 1’38.586
Ocon Repeat. Howard So gap to Esteban ahead 0.7. We’d like to hold position.
Peckett SOC nine, please. SOC nine now.

Gasly slips back

As Ocon accelerated out of turn nine he asked the team to repeat the instruction. They didn’t bother, and Gasly instead was told to “hold position”. But far from attacking his team mate, Gasly wasn’t even able to fend off the others behind him.

For Gasly, the next few laps was an excruciating sequence or car after car breezing past him in the DRS zones as he was unable to mount any kind of defence.

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Lap: 40/50 GAS: 1’37.789
Gasly What’s going on with my battery?
Howard So focus on gear usage. Third gear, turn one.
Gasly Doesn’t change anything, I can’t charge.
Gasly Ah, front deg.
Howard Copy that. So gap to Esteban one point…
Gasly Can we change plan?
Howard Okay Pierre we just need to manage these as best we can. Stroll behind 0.5. So everyone is managing, plan B is not viable.
Lap: 41/50 GAS: 1’38.760
Gasly I can be two seconds faster.
Howard So gap to Stroll behind 0.4. If we box, we come out in P17. So we need to stay on plan A.
Lap: 42/50 GAS: 1’38.094
Gasly Got absolutely no grip.
Howard Copy that. We need second gear. Turn five, nine and 12.
Howard Gap to Stroll 1.8. Russell behind 1.5. We need to try and push through this.
Gasly I’m losing so much fucking time.
Howard We’ve got to stay out Pierre, we’ve got to just keep managing these. So Russell behind 1.1, he has a five second penalty. Piastri ahead still needs to stop. So we are P6 on the road. Seven laps to go after this one.
Lap: 43/50 GAS: 1’38.666
Gasly I’m having too much deg, can’t…
Howard So we’re happy with gear usage. Russell behind 0.4.
Lap: 44/50 GAS: 1’39.943
Howard The car behind is Sainz 0.3.
Howard So Alonso behind, 0.2.

Piastri ends Gasly’s points chances

Piastri passed Gasly twice – before and after pitting

Most frustratingly for Gasly was the fast Piastri, who had restarted behind him, came in for a pit stop with eight laps to go and caught him quickly enough to demote Gasly out of the points-scoring places. It was a galling development for the driver who had restarted the race inside the podium positions, and he left his team in no doubt he felt they should have mimicked McLaren’s strategy.

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Lap: 45/50 GAS: 1’38.829
Howard So the car behind is Piastri. He’s 8.4 seconds back. He’s on used mediums.
Gasly I don’t get why we didn’t pit. I told you I don’t have fucking grip with these tyres. I’m like a sitting duck.
Howard So we are currently P10. Piastri behind seven seconds.
Gasly I don’t fucking care about P10. I told you I have no tyre. You didn’t listen to me.
Lap: 46/50 GAS: 1’38.079
Howard We’ve got five laps to go. So gap to Piastri 3.7. And we’ve got three laps to go after this one. Gap to Alonso 4.4.
Lap: 48/50 GAS: 1’38.217
Howard And gap to Piastri 1.4.
Howard So Piastri behind 0.4.
Lap: 49/50 GAS: 1’37.952
Howard So car behind is Albon. He’s doing 38.4. We have two laps remaining.
Howard And gap to Piastri 2.6.

Chequered flag

Gasly took the chequered flag a forlorn 11th, one place outside the points positions. “We need to review,” he told media afterwards. “I don’t fully understand why I struggled so much in my car.”

Lap: 50/50 GAS: 1’38.316
Howard So this is the last lap we can go SOC one, last lap.
Howard Okay, we’ll go recharge on scenario 12. And that’s P11. Sorry about that, mate.
Gasly Yeah we’re absolutely nowhere. I don’t get it. I don’t understand how I can have so much degradation. It’s embarrassing.
Howard Yep. A lot to look into. We’ll have a look after this.
Gasly Yeah. We’ve got a lot quite of work to look at. A lot of things to look at. But good quali. Just need to understand that race. So frustrating at the end. We’ll work. We’ll work.
Howard We’ll work through it. We’ll figure out what happened. It is frustrating, sorry about that. But yeah Saturday was great and the car had pace here, so a lot to look into.

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2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
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8 comments on ““You didn’t listen to me”: Gasly’s frustration with Alpine wasn’t about team orders”

  1. Remember when we were told these two guys that hated eachothers guts would be totally friends as teammates and we all scoffed and said “yeah, nah” and now Alpine is finding out that you don’t just suddenly become friends after years of being the opposite and deliberately cutting each other out of IG pictures.

    Shocking, really.

    1. But Gasly and Ocon’s relationship had nothing to do with it.

      Alpine left Gasly out on old tyres against his wishes, and he had no performance in the final post-safety car stint.

  2. Ocon was simply faster at that point, so disobeying the team order call was justified.

  3. Drivers shouldn’t vent over the radio. By that time it achieves nothing, and trying to make your race enfineer look bad isn’t the way a team should operate. There was plenty of time for them to discuss it in a team meeting after the event, to decide if Gasly or Howard was correct, and whether they should be paying more attention to Gasly’s feedback in future, or whether they need to put earplugs in and tell him to get on with it.

    1. So, the team is always right (at that moment) and the drivers must simply obey all commands without question?
      That doesn’t sound very much like a team to me. That seems very dictatorial.
      While the race is running, the radio is just about the only input the driver has into their own race strategy – and ultimately, the results that come from it.
      Funny that in another article there’s no shortage of comments saying drivers should be free to speak their mind….

      Now, if the radio wasn’t broadcast – what would we think of it? Nothing, because we wouldn’t know, right…
      We can only imagine some of the exchanges that people such as Senna and Verstappen Snr had over their radios back in their day….

      1. S, there is a difference between drivers discussing options with the team, and a driver venting his anger at the race engineer after they’ve made a decision and when it is too late to do anything about it. Tell me, how did Gasly’s public radio rant improve his race strategy in any way?

        1. Before I answer that directly – can I ask you why you think driver/team session debriefs are done as soon as each session finishes, rather than hours or days later?
          Or did I just answer it already….?

          Oh, and it wasn’t a public rant either. It was private between Gasly and his team. Until it was broadcast, anyway.
          Nobody else’s rant was broadcast, but that certainly doesn’t mean that there weren’t any.

  4. Ocon is the worst teammate in F1 history and one of the least sporting drivers ever. I don’t care if he passed his teammate here. He’s just a toxic driver.

Comments are closed.