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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