Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly, Jack Doohan, Alpine A524, 2024

Hamilton’s Ferrari move has triggered silly season of “chaos”, say Alpine pair

Formula 1

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Lewis Hamilton’s decision to leave Mercedes at the end of the year has blown the Formula 1 driver market open, Alpine’s two racers said at the team’s launch of their new car yesterday.

Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly are among a clutch of drivers whose contracts expire at the end of the year, making them potential candidates to replace Hamilton at Mercedes, and potentially setting further moves in motion.

Asked whether Hamilton’s move would trigger a lively ‘silly season’, Gasly said: “I think it did already.”

However on the eve of the new season both drivers were quick to praise Alpine’s efforts in overhauling its car design following its poor 2023 campaign.

“Obviously as a driver I’ve got my [management] team to do this type of job and I’m focusing what I’ve got to do as a driver because ultimately that’s what I want to do,” said Gasly. “I want to perform, I want to give my absolute best for the team. We’ve got 1,500 people who worked day and night to get that car as good as they can and then my job is to bring it to as far up the grid as I can. So that’s what I focus on.”

Gasly has already begun discussions with Alpine over his future at the team. He said Hamilton’s move was “unexpected for most people” and has “changed slightly the dynamics of the driver market and whole silly season.”

“Obviously I started with Alpine last year,” said Gasly, who joined the team from AlphaTauri (now RB). “I know the project I’m working on. I’m at the end of my contract at the end of the year obviously there are conversations ongoing and that’s it. I think the situation is pretty clear.

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“But at the moment I just want to see what this car is capable of. And ultimately my goal is to fight at the front and I believe it’s possible with Alpine. I’m 28, I’ve got good experience, in my prime and that’s what I’m working for, to fight for wins, for podiums and be up there.”

His team mate Esteban Ocon was supported by Mercedes earlier in his career and potentially a strong candidate to join the team.

“It’s clear that we have links with Mercedes,” said Ocon. “I’ve been managed by Mercedes for a long time now, since 2015. I’m a Merc junior even if I’m not that junior anymore. But we’ll see what the future holds.”

Like Gasly, Ocon said “at the moment, I’m completely dedicated for Alpine” and won’t allow the possibility of taking one of the most coveted seats on the grid distract him from his preparations for the new season.

“What I have to do with the team, the plan that we have ahead as well, that’s the whole focus I need to have because these things are very disruptive, focus-wise,” he said. “That’s why I have a very competitive management team that’s able to take the right choices on where we have to be. So I’m not worried and my focus is on the track.”

However Ocon is also keen to begin discussions with Alpine management as soon as possible. “The sooner is always the better because this year, more than anything else, there are 15 drivers so it’s going to be chaos out there, for sure. It’s a big silly season. So we’ll see.”

“I feel very good here,” he added. “It’s been many years consecutive racing here. I’m part of the family for a very long time. But Formula 1 is Formula 1. You don’t know what can happen. We’ll see where the future lies.”

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Keith Collantine
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16 comments on “Hamilton’s Ferrari move has triggered silly season of “chaos”, say Alpine pair”

  1. I have read elsewhere that Alpine have already decided not to continue with both Ocon and Gasly beyond this season, due to their poor working relationship. So if at least one of them leaves the team, that leaves a seat open for someone else. Could the much-maligned Alpine junior programme finally provide an F1 opportunity for one of their drivers? Martins would have to be the favourite, presumably.

    On the other hand, the risk-averse attitude of most F1 teams these days means they might pick up an existing F1 driver who is out of contract elsewhere. Sainz and Zhou both have history with the team, for instance.

    1. I definitely think Doohan could join Alpine for 2025, regardless of who the other driver is. Personally I struggle to separate Gasly and Ocon in terms of rating them. They both have one freak win (Ocon Hungary, Gasly Monza ’20), some really strong podiums (Ocon Sakhir ’20, Monaco ’23), Gasly Brazil ’19, Netherlands ’23) and some impressive races in general. But neither stand out too much, do they? Ocon has also famously struggled to get along with team mates like Perez and now Gasly.

      Personally, if I was forced to replace Hamilton, I would not sign an Alpine driver.

      1. Both have proven that they can win a race. I would argue that Gasly is the stronger of the two and could be a decent choice for a second driver. Although I personally think that Russell is overrated and they will handicap themselves with two drivers that are probably just a bit too weak.

        But there are not many drivers that can operate at the level of Lewis and Max.

      2. I’m not sure Ocon’s (selfish) record would be a deciding factor if they have a good team year such that they’d countenance sacking a French driver from a French team. For a mediocre year or an incident or two, sure.
        Anyway, Doohan’s standing right there and is indicating that he’s happy to play second fiddle (or perhaps how many guys standing in his way he’s prepared to deal with at a time).

        1. Ocon’s problem is he’d rather have a lower result, if it means he stays ahead of his teammate. He sacrifices team results to stay ahead of his teammate.
          And he is often so focused on his teammate that other drivers profit from that tunnel vision.

          1. This is perfectly explained by Ocon letting Gasly by even without team orders in Brazil, when Gasly has approached Ocon with different strategy, was having a strong race, fighting for P7, and Ocon had a poor one with graining issues. He even asked the team that he can let Gasly through and wait instead of boxing, because it would work better for them.

            Sure, let’s continue the narrative, and ignore the facts.

    2. @red-andy I would be curious to see statistics about how long drivers have been in F1, and in the same team. It feels F1 drivers haven’t been as static as it is now for a long time and wouldn’t be surprised if we hit a high on average seasons in F1 and average seasons for the same team.

      Piastri is still a good example of entering and delivering quickly. Is it the superlicense system backfiring in the sense that teams can’t bring unknown future prospect and that drivers have to be proven in other categories which are “not so relevant to F1” and have their flaws exposed and deterring from picking them? Surely quick adaptability through different categories should be regarded highly.

      1. @jeanrien

        The entire goal of the superlicense system was to prevent promising drivers to get a chance quickly and to instead force them into spending more time in the feeder series.

        Imagine seeing Max performing as he does now and thinking: it was a mistake for him to be able to get into F1 quickly and there should be rules against that.

        That is the level of ‘rationality’ that we are dealing with here.

        1. Verstappen was quite a menace before his enlightenment-moment at the 2018 Monaco GP. It wouldn’t have been a big loss to see him spend 2015 and 2016 in F2, and it would have prevented some pretty dangerous moments.

          Still, the FIA didn’t need a superlicense system to address that. It’s perfectly within their power to ban such drivers either for one or multiple events under the normal sporting regulations and the Code.

          1. He had one real accident where he ran into Grosjean, but even that was at relatively low speeds. Many much more experienced drivers have done worse things, like Hamilton against Max.

            You are just spinning a false narrative as young Max being a menace, which he was not.

          2. I have to agree with ludewig, verstappen barely made mistakes apart from early 2018; when you’re talking about him being a menace early on I guess you’re probably referring to his aggressive defensive moves vs raikkonen in spa, probably in 2016 or something like that.

        2. Imagine seeing Max performing as he does now and thinking: it was a mistake for him to be able to get into F1 quickly and there should be rules against that. That is the level of ‘rationality’ that we are dealing with here.

          It wasn’t a mistake for Verstappen to enter when he did – it was a risky but very deliberate gamble which really didn’t even start to pay off for a couple of years.
          Perhaps you’ve forgotten the ‘Verstappen Rule’ and how many other drivers at the time were saying that he was dangerous in close racing? Not to mention his lack of consistency and the number of times he lost control of his car.
          One or two years of F2 would have been greatly beneficial to him as a driver and a racer – and also to everyone else who shared the track with him.
          Arguably, he still drives a real F1 car as though it is a computer game at times – especially under close racing conditions. Bad habits learned early on and not worked out soon enough, as they typically are for drivers who spend enough time in F3 and F2.

          The truth is Verstappen simply wasn’t ready to enter F1 when he did. What other level of rationality is there?

          1. Yes, I think the verstappen rule came following the episode I was talking about, when he defended aggressively at the end of the spa straight from raikkonen.

    3. @red-andy What do you mean poor ‘working’ relationship?
      Nothing wrong with that aspect even if they aren’t the best of buddies off-track.

  2. Ocon most certainly hasn’t been a junior for a while anymore nor has he been in a direct relationship with the F1 team since 2020, so his wordings are somewhat weird, as any such relationship is a past pre-2020 thing.
    Maybe a good personal relationship thanks to that past partnership, but nothing more than that.
    Nevertheless, a return is unlikely this long afterwards anymore.
    I also doubt about Gasly, but we’ll see.

  3. I bet they hope to get out. Don’t see it happening. Don’t see Alpine amount to anything either the coming decade. This would be a good team to sell to Andretti.

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