clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

After a year of fighting on the F1 circuit, Esteban Ocon is happy to see Fernando Alonso leave Alpine

F1 driver Esteban Ocon opened up about his relationship with Fernando Alonso

F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Now that the 2022 Formula One season has drawn to a close, and the grid is set for the 2023 campaign, drivers and teams are starting to look ahead to the next year on the circuit.

Judging by recent comments, Alpine’s Esteban Ocon is not sad to see former teammate Fernando Alonso depart for Aston Martin.

Alonso, the veteran driver and former F1 champion, is moving to Aston Martin to replace the retiring Sebastian Vettel. Pierre Gasly was released from his contract with Red Bull’s sister team, AlphaTauri, and will slide into the seat vacated by Alonso.

Alonso’s move to Aston Martin draws to a close what had been a fractured relationship between the two drivers for Alpine this past season. Ocon and Alonso sparred numerous times on the track, often costing Alpine valuable points in their chase for a fourth-place finish in the Constructors’ Championship.

The pair raced hard against each other early in the season, at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, which may have cost them a chance to overtake Mercedes’ George Russell for fifth place. There was another dust-up on the track at the Hungarian Grand Prix — the morning Alonso informed the team of his move to Aston Martin for the 2023 season — that saw Alonso blast his teammate over the radio. As Ocon and Alonso tangled early in the race, Alonso radioed in “[n]ever in my life have I seen a defense like Esteban’s today. Never.”

The Alpine duo finished in eighth and ninth after that race, with Alonso ahead of Ocon, after a one-stop strategy that saw both drivers finish a lap down. After the race, Ocon downplayed the incident, calling their tangle on the track “racing.”

Things perhaps reached their boiling point in Brazil, where the pair came into contact during the opening lap of Saturday’s sprint race. Ocon squeezed Alonso off the track in Turn 4, and both cars received damage. Alonso eventually finished 15th, and Ocon placed 18th, but Alonso was penalized for the incident after the race, as he was judged to be at fault for the contact.

Their behavior caught the ire of Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer, who blasted the duo after the sprint race:

We are extremely disappointed with the Sprint qualifying result, which has put us in a worse position on the grid for the main race. Frankly, both Esteban and Fernando must do a better job to compliment the fantastic efforts of everyone in the team by avoiding on-track incidents and compromising the entire team’s performance.

Both drivers have let the team down. I expect more from them in the race where we must do everything we can to recover some points from the weekend for the Championship.

We are in a very tight and competitive championship fight for fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship; an objective for which over 1,000 staff are tirelessly working and striving towards.

We aim to ensure we go to Abu Dhabi next weekend in a position where we can reach our season goals. Sunday is a new day.

After the race, Alonso made his feelings on the event, and his relationship with Ocon, clear. Asked if he had spoken with his teammate, Alonso replied “No, not really – I don’t need to. One more race and it’s over, finally.”

While Ocon maintained quiet during the season, the French driver finally shared his thoughts on the relationship this week. In an interview with French outlet Ouest-France, Ocon finally opened up about the relationship, criticizing Alonso’s public comments. “Of course, I was disappointed by his comments in the press and not internally,” Ocon said to Ouest-France. “We didn’t have any discussions about any of that. I will keep the respect I have for him.”

Ocon also unloaded on the workload that he endured while paired with Alonso: “It’s good that he’s going to Aston Martin and that we’re going our separate ways. Honestly, the work was 98% on my back and 2% on his. I was overworked. I did all the development on the simulator, the marketing trips.”

Alonso is notorious for not using the simulator to aid his team. Back in 2014 Felipe Massa, after moving from Ferrari to Williams, criticized Alonso for not putting in any time in the simulator the prior season when both were with Ferrari. “Last year I worked on the development of the car, and in the simulator I was practically the only driver, because Alonso wasn’t there.”

As for Ocon, he maintains his respect for Alonso, but admitted that he is glad the two are parting. “I still respect him, but it is good that he is going to Aston Martin and that we each go our way.”

However, there is a chance that the year ahead sees more of the same for Alpine’s drivers. Ocon and Gasly grew up in 30 minutes apart in Normandy, and the two 26-year-olds have been racing together for two decades, starting out together in karting. The two trained together, but eventually that drew to a close when hard racing on the track caused friction between the two.

Gasly recalled their shared past in a 2018 episode of the Beyond the Grid podcast: “Just to see the way we grew up and where we are now, it’s just fantastic. So I think we really respect each other as a driver, but unfortunately there is not the feeling that we had in the past, which was much more friendly.”

Still, Gasly hopes the two can renew what was a great relationship. “It’s an opportunity for both of us to get back to a similar relationship that we had in the past,” Gasly said in an interview with after the move was announced. “What was the probability that two six-year-old kids from Normandy, France, living 20 minutes from each other, would end up 20 years later as team-mates in a French team? I think that is incredible and a very special story.”

After the announcement, Ocon also struck a conciliatory tone. “Now we are team-mates in a team from Normandy and we are both from Normandy, so I think we can write a great story together.”

Alpine, and its supporters, are hoping that is the case.