Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Yas Marina, 2023

Alpine’s third choice narrowly out-scores Ocon in his first season at team

2023 F1 team mates head-to-head

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Alpine’s failure to hold on to first Fernando Alonso, then Oscar Piastri last year handed an opportunity to Pierre Gasly to pursue his career outside of Red Bull.

Given the two embarrassing public snubs which preceded Gasly’s signing, no one at Alpine could pretend he was their first or even second choice to partner Esteban Ocon. Were they therefore surprised to see the ex-AlphaTauri racer rock up and outscore their incumbent driver?

On paper, an all-French line-up offered marketing advantages for the Renault-owned team. But there was the problematic detail that Ocon and Gasly hadn’t been the best of friends in junior competition. They are professionals, however, and potential flashpoints between the pair have largely been well-handled.

This was notably so in Australia, where Gasly had the good fortune to enjoy the most obvious example of the stewards failing to award a clear penalty all season. ‘No action’ was the verdict after Gasly went off at the standing restart on lap 56, rejoined the track unsafely and crashed into, of all drivers, his team mate. Both drivers “recognised and accepted” this had been a “first-lap” racing incident, the stewards recorded with doe-like naivety. It’s almost as if the pair had the same employer and, therefore, no reason to lobby for the team’s other car to be penalised – particularly given how close Gasly was to collecting a race ban at the time.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Monaco, 2023
The pair took a podium each – Ocon doing so in Monaco
That was the third race weekend of the season and the first time Gasly qualified ahead of his new team. As he gained confidence at the wheel of the A523, Gasly’s superiority over a single flying lap began to tell. By the end of the year he held a clear advantage on this metric, Ocon only out-qualifying him twice in the 11 races which formed the second half of the season.

Ocon’s race pace remained dependably strong however, and this put the pair of them on a collision course at times. Over the final races the Alpine pit wall increasingly had to intervene to determine which of their drivers benefited strategically.

Gasly was incensed at being told to surrender ninth place to his team mate on the final lap at Suzuka, having previously been waved past him in an unsuccessful attempt to attack Alonso ahead. This began a series of races in which Gasly often failed to convert the advantage of starting ahead of his team mate.

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Ocon passed Gasly off the line in Losail and Austin, and again at the restart in Mexico City. Gasly turned the tables in Brazil, but his team mate managed the tyre graining more successfully after the restart in Las Vegas, and was in the process of passing his team mate as Alpine moved to issue a “hold position” order.

The team’s tactics infuriated Gasly again in Abu Dhabi as Ocon was brought into the pits first while chasing his team mate and inevitably benefited from fresher tyres to jump ahead of him. This would have been a surprising decision by Alpine under any circumstances but was all the more so as Gasly had gone into the final race just four points ahead of his team mate and obviously eager to preserve his bragging rights.

As neither driver scored, however, it became a moot point. That lack of competitiveness will naturally be Alpine’s priority as they head into the off-season, but they may need to be closer attention to maintaining the harmony between their drivers as well.

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Unrepresentative comparisons omitted. Negative value: Ocon was faster; Positive value: Gasly was faster

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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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16 comments on “Alpine’s third choice narrowly out-scores Ocon in his first season at team”

  1. That headline is a doozy!

  2. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
    4th December 2023, 17:32

    Fairly forgettable season for the Ligier team. Can see Gasly having the edge next season.

    1. Haha!! Ligier :) If only they swapped their car liveries with Williams.

      1. Haha. Love this comment.

        It’s utterly amazing that all their driver problems were caused by giving a needlessly long term contract to a driver who would have never been signed by another team (one that he would want to go anyway) and it also largely led to the guy who gave it to him being fired (Rossi).

  3. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    4th December 2023, 18:27

    Gasly beat the golden boy. Alpine are probably the worst run team in the sport. Will they ever make the push forward?

    1. The answer to your question is an obvious no, this is exactly where they belong, however I think haas might take the acolate of the worst run team.

    2. I don’t understand how Ocon is a ‘golden boy’ of any team. Hasn’t he been beaten by every teammate he’s been paired up against? That is probably why he’s the most rubbish teammate on the grid, he finally wants to beat a teammate at any cost. Fighting for wins and championships isn’t important to Esteban.

  4. Given they’re basically Renault they should be a lot better than they are. Personally I wish they had stayed as Renault, it was more identifable, more marketable and had history with F1. Alpine, I realise it’s a sports car division but there’s nothing really remarkable about them and that rather spreads to the F1 team – an enormous lack of character or personality. The whole team and manufacturer just seems to float about F1 with no direction – a ship with no course, just ticking over to not be terrible but never being good. Beige, if it were an F1 team.

    1. @rocketpanda And before they were renamed were they any different? I’d argue absolutely not. It’s not the name or brand that’s the problem, it’s the lack of vision and competitive spirit from the top brass of the company that’s been the problem in the past 15 years or so. Team Enstone is absolutely capable of fighting at the top if given the right tools and motivation but they receive neither from the bosses across the channel. It almost makes me think they’d switched branding so their lackluster showing year in year out won’t reflect poorly on the main brand, instead of promoting a niche one. And if that’s the thinking, why not sell and get out? But that’s typical of the current Renault Sport indecisiveness. They’re neither all in nor all out, stuck in limbo of mediocrity in the middle. And it’s so sad IMO. Because it’s such a waste of potential. I want to like them, I like the way their car looks, I like their history as team Enstone, I even disagree with you about the Alpine sports car. In fact Alpine A110 might be my favorite car currently produced, remarkable in many ways IMO. So I want to like them as I said but can’t because they’re 100% meh(or beige as you’d said). Including the drivers, both very good but not great, in fact bang on average in F1 terms. Gasly and Ocon have different strengths and weaknesses, but they average out like everything else about this team…

      1. You’re spot on Montreal, it’s very frustrating, sometimes Renault can be brilliant (f1 ’05 & 06′, Renault 5 Rally, Clio cup cars) but most of the time, their sporting divisions just never seem to commit fully to the task at hand.

    2. They can call themselves what they want. I still consider them to be Renault and that’s what I call them. As well as Sauber was never Alfa Romeo for me. Their official names do not oblige me. Sometimes I wonder why even the media accepts to play that game. Especially in silly cases like Alfa’s. Well, Alpha’s too, I guess lol.

      1. Yes, indeed, renault and sauber both make more sense, and alpha tauri was already silly, now that they’re going with racing bulls might as well go back to calling them toro rosso!

    3. I say the rebranding is quite effective at realizing their marketing intentions. I knew of the current Alpine sports car but never quite started paying attention to it until the Renault F1 team rebranded to Apline.

    4. Ah but @rocketpanda… when you go and look at images of the 1971 Renault Alpine A110 rally car, don’t tell me you don’t like the name! That thing oozes gorgeousness! Still, I agree with you. For marketing purposes, it seems pretty daft to make a reference very few will ever understand or care about. They should have stuck to Renault.

  5. Gasly didn’t finish 6 times ahead of Ocon, but just 5. Did you count Australia, which was a double DNF caused by Gasly, as his race win? Lmao.

  6. Happy for Pierre Gasly, though he is not one of my favorite drivers. But Esteban Ocon is real trouble

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