Start, Monaco, 2024

How the midfield’s hottest team mate rivalry boiled over

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Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly’s first-lap collision in the Monaco Grand Prix didn’t exactly look as though it had been a long time coming, but nor was it much of a surprise.

This is a driver pairing few expected to be harmonious when it was announced, and so it has proved since then.

The pair already weathered a mutually destructive collision soon after they became team mates last year. As the season went on and Alpine were clearly locked into sixth place in the championship, the contest between the two drivers over who would finish ahead was bitterly fought.

The same desperation to outdo the other, irrespective of the team’s situation, was apparent in Ocon’s ill-judged lunge at Gasly at Portier on Sunday.

Ocon was taken out by Gasly in Melbourne
This was what many predicted when Gasly was announced as Ocon’s next team mate in the second half of 2022. The pair had a fierce rivalry during their karting careers, summed up by Gasly in an interview with RaceFans in 2018: “I started to beat him and he didn’t like it.”

The similarities between the pair goes far beyond nationality. Both are one-time grand prix winners who have come frustratingly close to chances with top teams. Ocon has long been backed by Mercedes, but never had the chance to race for them. Gasly spent half a season at Red Bull before being brutally dumped back to their junior squad during the summer break.

The pair race each other with a greater intensity than is normal for team mates even by F1 standards. At the beginning of last year Netflix’s cameras caught Ocon pushing so hard in a pre-season karting event for media he spun off and crashed while Gasly pursued him.

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But the desire to beat each other is felt keenly on both sides. One year earlier in Monaco Gasly was infuriated by his team’s strategy as they pulled him into the pits shortly before a rain shower arrived. Ocon stayed out and a perfectly-timed pit stop not only jumped him ahead of Gasly, it put him on the podium.

Pierre Gasly, Alpine, Monaco, 2023
Gasly fumed over Alpine’s strategy in Monaco last year
“I mentioned I wanted to go long,” Gasly complained afterwards. “I mentioned track position. My tyres were fine.”

“I think we could have made a different call, which would have put me on the on the podium,” he added.

Gasly’s dissatisfaction with his strategy – especially when it involved losing position to Ocon – was a recurring theme in the latter stages of the season. At Suzuka he was outraged the team told him to relinquish a position to Ocon on the final lap of the race, believing he was quick enough to deserve the place.

“What the fuck?” fumed Gasly when he was told to slow down. “You’re kidding me? I was faster. I’m on fresher rubber. If he didn’t let me past I would have overtaken him anyway.” His race engineer had to assure Gasly “I’m not joking” before he agreed to relinquish the position.

Gasly had moved ahead of Ocon in the drivers’ championship by finishing on the podium at Zandvoort, but swapping places at Suzuka allowed Ocon to cut the gap between them to eight points.

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By Las Vegas, the penultimate round, Gasly was 16 points to the good and in a strong position. However during the race he was infuriated by his team’s decision to leave him on old tyres at a Safety Car restart and he slipped out of the top 10. Ocon took a 12-point bite out of Gasly’s advantage after passing him, despite being given a “hold position” order by Alpine, which appeared to have been issued too late.

Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Suzuka, 2023
Alpine team orders infuriated Gasly at Suzuka in 2023
With only four points in hand over Ocon at the final race, Gasly was left fuming when he was again left out the longest of their two cars, despite being ahead, and falling behind his team mate as a result. “It should not happen,” he said after the race. “The leading car always has the priority, and we know it should not happen. So I’m sure we’ll learn from it and I’m sure it won’t happen again.”

Nonetheless as both drivers finished out of the points Gasly won the bragging rights for the season among the two drivers. This was a blow for Ocon, who has been out-scored by his team mate in three of the four seasons since he returned to F1.

Alpine struggled to score points at all when the new season began, as the A524 was overweight and off the pace. Rapid work at their factory allowed them to bring a single example of their new floor to the Chinese Grand Prix, which went to Ocon, with the assurance that Gasly will be next to get a new upgrade first.

Ocon bagged the team’s first point at Miami but in Monaco the A524 looked more competitive than it had all season. Both drivers produced competitive times in qualifying, but as Gasly secured his place in Q2 it ensured Ocon’s eliminated, missing the cut by just six hundredths of a second.

Gasly’s Q2 time had been good enough for fifth place but an error in Q3 left him 10th on the grid, one place ahead of the other Alpine. Strikingly, Ocon drew attention to his team mate’s error as well as his own after the session: “It’s my bad and our fault as drivers this time because we had the pace as a team to get into Q3, probably to be near the top five, I would say sixth or seventh,” he said, adding “unfortunately at the end in Q3 there was also a mistake from Pierre.”

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Alpine put both drivers on the hard tyre compound at the start of the race. With their two cars straddling the end of the points-paying places, there was a good chance whichever driver was running behind at the end of lap one would be given the unwelcome job of slowing down the field behind them to aid the car ahead. Perhaps that explains Ocon’s borderline desperate efforts to get ahead of Gasly, whom he first attacked unsuccessfully at the outside of Massenet before lunging down the inside at Portier, triggering contact at the exit.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Monaco, 2024
Ocon’s team boss threatened “consequences” over the clash
The only upside for Alpine was that Gasly emerged largely unscathed and went on to pick up his first point of the year. But how much comfort can they really draw from seeing these two drivers tied on one point each?

Team principal Bruno Famin, speaking to French broadcaster Canal Plus from the pit wall during the race, initially threatened “consequences” for the incident. It is hard to imagine the team would actually take the nuclear option of benching Ocon for the upcoming race, as some have suggested, not least because he’s been the quicker of their drivers in qualifying.

But will Famin be thinking about a longer-term change in their line-up? Regardless of the friction between the pair, it has always looked like a marriage of convenience: Gasly was the team’s third choice for 2023, after Fernando Alonso jumped ship to Aston Martin and junior driver Oscar Piastri lured away by McLaren.

Famin arrived in the wake of the second notable collision between Ocon and Gasly. The first occured in Australia, but was quickly smoothed over, Gasly avoiding a potentially ban-triggering penalty thanks in part to Ocon sticking up for him in front of the stewards. The second, in Hungary, was neither driver’s fault.

But the third last week was symptomatic of an internal rivalry which is too intense to be considered healthy competition. Famin hasn’t been shy about shaking things up on the managerial side since taking charge, and it’s not hard to imagine this latest incident has shown him another change needs to be made.

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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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21 comments on “How the midfield’s hottest team mate rivalry boiled over”

  1. Both of them behave like children at times, but Gasly does show greater restraint than Ocon. The latter has plenty of form with other team mates as well.

    1. Both of them behave like children at times, but Gasly does show greater restraint than Ocon. The latter has plenty of form with other team mates as well.

      Let’s be brutally honest, they both have form and as Keith pointed out the to-and-fro petty behaviour is no surprise.
      The only real surprise is that it has taken so long for it to become a general talking point.

      The PR was tagging them as a dream team with two French drivers in a French team, all I saw was a nightmare.

      1. Nothing Gasly has done has come close to Ocon’s poorly considered lunge. It wasn’t an error or mistake which caused the contact, it was pure selfishness.

      2. For the fun of debating, I would argue that Ocon really had a bad relation with Perez that ended up in tears more than once (and went to very dangerous incident, like when they crashed at Spa right before entering eau rouge) and with Alonso.

        By that rate, Ocon with anyone is a nightmare… And there is no “one car team” for a long tie in F1, so is there a place where he could do well ?

        Honestly, Ocon and Gasly are both good drivers, probably both a bit inconsistent, but my bet is in a good car, they would do well. But while Gasly is your typical F1 driver (very competitive, a bit whiny, but a decent bloke – ask Tsunoda and Max), Ocon appears much more petty and is excessively aggressive with his teammate, much much more than with other drivers. He smiles a lot in the interviews and says the right thing, but that always seems a tad too much and artificial. As for the behavior on track…

      3. The media was tagging them as a nightmare pairing before Gasly turned a single lap. I never heard about any dream talk even from Alpine.

  2. This was never a surprise. Gasly was on the verge of a racing ban (not that it would ever have happened in reality) and Ocon has been playing bumper cars with every team mate he’s had.

    1. Coventry Climax
      31st May 2024, 17:04

      No, you’re right, and the biggest surprise here is Alpine being called ‘midfield’.

  3. As much as I think he was legally entitled within the rules and shouldn’t have been penalised, Ocon’s move was really silly to say the least.

    If it costs him his seat it will be fair. Being fast in the midfield means nothing if you can’t play the team game, and they’re not even there.

    Put Doohan in already, see how he goes.

    1. Coventry Climax
      31st May 2024, 17:11

      ‘Educated’ guess: Doohan is not given any chance for some time, and then right before Alpine has no other options, he signs with another team.

      Jokes aside and more realistic: Doohan is a great name that’s however more attached to the father than to the son, although he does seem to have improved slightly over the last year. Still, considering him prime F1 material is stretching things.
      His hopes are that Liberty thinks he -or more accurately, the name- can make them money.

  4. I really think Gasly’s been biting his tongue the whole time, as Alpine decisions were borderline crazy. From the outside it really feels like they rate him better than Pierre, which I think is unfair as they are closely matched.

    But Ocon anyway has a long history of battling team mates with fierce while letting others reap the rewards. I don’t understand what Alpine saw in him to lock him for 3 long years, either. Thankfully for them, that contract ends his year.

  5. Regarding the Australia collision, another major factor was that their collision was only a part of a chain-reaction event caused by Sainz rather than something only involving them, so the Monaco GP one is their only true coming together without any external factors.
    Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to seeing how they’ll manage a mere working relationship moving on.

    1. Sainz incident with Alonso had absolutely nothing to do with Gasly-Ocon clash, as Gasly was already touching the grass at the moment Sainz tapped Alonso. Don’t put false narratives.

    2. I think that Gasly incident was as bad or worse as what we’ll call the Ocon incident in Monaco, but Alpine went balls-to-the-wall to protect Gasly from a one-race ban. Either way, what an idiotic pairing. Another great Alpine move.

  6. When you look at his team mates and you see that none of them have a history of racing hard and crashing with the sister car, yet he did it numerous times already, it becomes easy to see where the problem comes from.

    He definitely has an attitude problem.

  7. Ocon, and possibly the Alpine team as well, may think (or expect) that he is better than Gasly, as he had two seasons of competitive results against Alonso. The reality we see on race track is that they are very close to each other in terms of talent and, as they are trying to gain superiority, it is just harming the team. Additionally, neither of them are drivers who have fully achieved what they hoped for, and a slightly biased team is not helping the situation.

  8. As usual, media is blowing this way out of proportion. This is really the only time they’ve come together and it’s been someone’s “fault”. All previous incidents between them could have (and has) happened to any teammates.

    They both have deserved reputations, but this is the first time the media could point fingers and say, “See!? We TOLD you there would be fireworks”


  9. Midfield? I quote from a current topic (Alpine’s White departs Enstone after 20 years at team) posted by Will Wood on this site:

    The team currently sit ninth in the constructors’ championship, equal on points with Williams, but lower due to Williams having the higher best finish with Alexander Albon’s ninth place in Monaco.

  10. Ocon seems to think to become a wdc you have to be a assh@#€.
    That part succeeded….

  11. Phew, a lot of ‘evidence’ to sift through.
    Overall it seems (a) Gasly has been slightly the better driver (they’re both pretty good clearly) and (b) Gasly very definitely thinks he’s been disadvantaged by team decisions at times and, overall, that seems to be a reasonable take.
    Just an impression reading through.

  12. I feel some diversity in the team might be of assistance to the situation. In general it broadens the perspective on what a team needs to strive for and how to behave on an international stage.

  13. whom he first attacked unsuccessfully at the outside of Massenet before lunging down the inside at Portier, triggering contact at the exit.

    You know there was contact between the two at Massenet as well, right?

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