Alpine has clarified that they are looking to retain Esteban Ocon and that Pierre Gasly is not in frame for a seat in F1 2022.
The French driver has, so far, impressed the F1 circus with his performances. And his future lays in “French hands”. The 2021 season for Ocon has been very positive so far. The 24-years-old is in his second season with the French marque Alpine.
After ending the 2020 season on a high note with his maiden F1 podium at the Sakhir Grand Prix, Ocon managed to out-qualify his new teammate, the two-time F1 World Champion and Le Mans winner Fernando Alonso, in three out of four rounds of this championship. Furthermore, he scored 10 points, doubling Alonso’s haul.
His great start has impressed his manager, and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, and Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi. The Austrian was asked at the Spanish Grand Prix about Ocon’s chances to land a seat in Mercedes in 2022.
“Esteban, it’s a little bit of a weird situation, because he’s been a Mercedes junior for a long time, and he’s an Alpine works driver now and that’s fact,” said Wolff. “I think that the situation is good for him there, he’s growing, he’s putting in the performances… he’s French. I mean, all that, it’s very much the stars aligned and I think it needs to be Laurent’s and Esteban’s call first how to continue before we start to give an opinion.”
During the press conference on Thursday in Monaco, Rossi had a chance to add his opinion of the French driver situation, where he pushed towards keeping Ocon for another year. “We were very grateful after Toto said that,” he said. “And it is indeed something we are considering and Esteban is doing everything to make me consider keeping him in the team.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t think about it. So, at the moment, we are already engaged in some conversations with his agent, his management team, Mercedes at large. Esteban is a great driver so I’m happy to have that type of problem – which is not actually. Esteban, we knew, is extremely talented.
“He’s been racing against all of the drivers, most of the drivers, when he was young – younger, he’s still young – and he’s always consistently beating them, most of the time. So, I knew he had a lot of talent. It’s the second year he starts having good references in the team. We also made some modifications to his own team, and also to the way we build-up the weekends. The race weekends and the qualifications, so it shows. The guy has talent, so it shows. I think he is where he should be – which is good,” summed up Rossi.
During the press conference, Rossi was also asked about the possibility of hiring another French driver whose contract is expiring at the end of this season, the 2020 Italian Grand Prix winner, Gasly – who is in a fix at AlphaTauri, looking at a Red Bull opportunity.
The AlphaTauri driver was demoted to the Faenza based team from Red Bull ahead of the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix, and there are no plans to promote him in the senior outfit in the future, which has Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, as things stand.
“We’re not looking at any drivers for next year,” said Rossi. “At the moment I am considering Esteban, as we mentioned earlier on. Fernando Alonso is here next year with us. If we want to carry on with the momentum we have we will do that. Pierre is obviously a great driver of value but at the moment this is not on the cars, I would say.”
It seems that the F1 silly season for 2022 has already begun. But at Enstone, the Alpine management has already made up their minds, to retain Ocon alongside Alonso. There are only handful of seats available for next season, but numerous drivers in line.
Here’s Valtteri Bottas and George Russell on their contract
Here’s Lewis Hamilton on contract signing
Here’s Toto Wolff on situation with Esteban Ocon
The story was written by Lorenzo Liegi