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Formula 1

Fresh team orders angst sours Alpine's double points finish

by Samarth Kanal
3 min read

Outgoing Alpine Formula 1 driver Esteban Ocon scored points in the Canadian Grand Prix, the first race since his exit from the team was announced and one race on from flying over team-mate Pierre Gasly on the first lap in Monaco.

But a double points finish for Gasly and Ocon in ninth and 10th in Montreal was soured by disagreement over team orders.

Ocon, whose post-Alpine 2025 destination is yet to be announced, was ahead of team-mate Gasly late in the race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Ocon was running eighth, just ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, with five laps to go. Tsunoda then spun to the rear and his RB team-mate Daniel Ricciardo passed Ocon. Ocon was then told to let team-mate Gasly, who will remain at the team next year, through to attack Ricciardo up ahead.

“Yeah, forget it,” replied Ocon. He was then told: “That is the request.”

Gasly was then told that he might have to pass Ocon in a straight fight, but Ocon relented with the caveat that he would want the team to “make what’s right at the end.”

There was no confirmation that Alpine would swap its drivers back at the end of the race, yet, with two laps remaining, Ocon let Gasly by. 

“The cars are not swapping places, push to the end please,” Ocon was then told. He replied, “Yeah, amazing, thank you, amazing.”

Gasly failed to catch Ricciardo but Gasly still finished ninth and Ocon 10th. 

“No comments. I’m too nice. Too nice,” said Ocon on his cooldown lap, before his race engineer acknowledged the frustration. “I’ve done what I have to do which is the most important but you guys didn’t do what you had to do. That’s it,” continued Ocon.

“It’ll be discussed in a bit,” replied the pitwall. Ocon’s reply was: “Thanks for supporting.”

Alpine later justified its choice as Ocon had an energy management issue, which impacted his speed. The team said it didn’t swap the drivers back around because Ocon “was losing performance with the suspected PU issue and the team had confidence for Pierre to attack Ricciardo with DRS (and Ricciardo without DRS).”

But when asked by the media straight after the race if he could explain the team orders, Ocon made his displeasure very clear.

"No, it is unexplainable, that one!" he replied.

"I have always respected the instructions I have been given as a driver and I’ve done that once more, I’m the nice guy.

"I’ve done my part of the job; the team hasn’t, honestly.

"And it is not fair on that race, so I am very frustrated with how things have been played out but I guess there’s a lot of reasons, so we’ll let the benefit of the doubt go on."

He was adamant there was no realistic chance of Gasly catching Ricciardo after they swapped positions.

"No, because we were two and a half seconds behind Daniel!" said Ocon when asked if the team's plan made sense to him.

"In one lap not even a Red Bull can catch that gap so it made no sense.

"It’s either we don’t know what we are doing or we don’t realise how far it is, or it is something else.

"It wasn’t the right decision."

Ocon was publicly scolded by team boss Bruno Famin after colliding with team-mate Gasly in Monaco – which led to him getting a five-place grid penalty for Canada – insisted that he felt optimistic for the rest of the season. 

“I was able to fight a lot of quicker cars as well… and that felt good, obviously, but it’s a little bit [of a] bitter end,” he added to Sky.

“I’m optimistic for the rest of the year that I can push that car to the maximum and there is a lot to do altogether with this team.”

Gasly described the result as "good teamwork" and said "that's what we need until the end of the year".

Alpine had an awful start to the season, not scoring at all in the first five events, but is now up to eighth in the constructors' championship with within two points of Haas aside.

"We know on days like today we've got to make the best out of what we have," Gasly added.

"We can't afford to make any mistakes and we can't take any unnecessary risks, so it was well managed."

Ocon has not announced his destination for 2025, with Haas or Sauber/Audi his most likely choices.

“I will announce when the timing is right; it’s not the right moment now,” he said in Canada.

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