Alpine plays down late dramas around team orders between Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon in F1 Japanese GP which wasn’t shown on world feed.
Away from the leading pack and team orders at McLaren and Mercedes, there was things brewing at Alpine too in F1 Japanese GP which wasn’t aired on the world feed. Ocon had a bad start when he was involved in an incident in the run-up to Turn 1.
On the inside, Ocon was too close to Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas as they both touched where the Finn also made contact with Williams’ Alexander Albon on the outside. The Frenchman was forced to pit which hampered his grand prix early.
He was on a different strategy immediately to teammate Gasly, but both did come together eventually. Both of Ocon’s stops were completed early by Alpine considering his Lap 1 troubles which meant his teammate was behind after his stop was done later.
But being on a fresher compound, Gasly already had advantage over Ocon. Despite that, Alpine asked Ocon to not fight Gasly and let him through to catch Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso. They promised Ocon that Gasly will let him through if doesn’t catches Alonso.
This baffled Gasly as he felt that being on a fresh set of tyres, he didn’t need team orders to be allowed ahead in the first place. And so giving back the position seemed not right to him which led to some late back and forth on the radio for both drivers.
Gasly eventually slowed down and gave up ninth to Ocon but his onboard showed clear displeasure over the situation which continued on until parc ferme and even in the media pen. He felt undone by the situation as there was no need for such dramas.
Ocon, meanwhile, was calm about the situation as he managed to recover to ninth despite his Lap 1 troubles. Alpine chief Bruno Famin played down the issues but agreed on the communication part that maybe they didn’t convey things properly.
Gasly: “It was that Esteban, if they would decide to undercut me with the strategy, to favour him, they would obviously undercut me who was the leading car, and they will let me past so we don’t lose time. But it was never said that we will need to invert again the position because I started ahead and I was always in front. As a team, being tenth or ninth, ninth or tenth, it’s the same. But it was definitely not something I expected and not something I really understand as well as I was the leading car, but we will talk.
“It wasn’t discussed before the race. It was clear that with the strategy they had planned at some point Esteban would undercut me. But my race was faster, and I will have to pass him back. I would have overtook him anyway on the race track because I had fresher tyres and this was part of the strategy, it was telling us before the race. Until then, it was all similar, it’s just the last lap. But it’s something we’ll talk together, we’ll explain and I’m sure next time the other way around Esteban will play it fair.
“I’m behind the wheel and my job is to go as fast as possible. I’m giving everything I can. Why give up a position, for what reason. I put the team in front of myself and that’s what I will do anyway. I think we did a good strategy as a team we did the best job we could with both cars. I don’t understand the team’s decision, but I respected it and let Esteban pass, but in the end it’s three points for the team and that’s what we will have to look at.”
Ocon: “I’ve been with this team since four years and the rule has always been the same. If you swap the position initially, which I did to Pierre I gave him the position, if you don’t get the car in front then you always switch back before the end. It was the same with Daniel, it was the same with Fernando. We were doing that, if it’s me, if it’s him, if it’s the other way around I will do the same. I always prefer to fight on track which is more a bit of an old school way but I understand the team’s point of view, which is to try and get some more points. I think today we maximised what was on the table and we can be proud of ourselves [for] good teamwork.”
Famin (via Motorsport Network): “We don’t have any problem between the drivers. I think it’s that they are all fighting for having their own best results, which is normal and what they are paid for. But they are also paid for having the best team results. Of course, with the stress of the race, we may have some declarations that are a bit strong, but I have absolutely no doubt about the drivers being on the same line together. For having the best team result, we left Pierre in front of Esteban to have the possibility, even if it was small, of trying to catch Fernando. This was not possible, so to swap back is very normal.
“This is the point we need to check to be totally transparent. I don’t know when it has been said, and that is the point we need to clarify. Sometimes we have communication problems because the line is not so good. Or sometimes the engineer thinks they are clear when they say something, but maybe sometimes the driver doesn’t record it because he is focused on something else. We need to check whether the driver received well the information. But anyway, the manoeuvre was done in the interests of the team, and I have absolutely no doubt that both drivers agree with that.
“If we have to do it a bit differently the other way [around] during the coming races, they will do it. They know that, and there is no tension. It is just execution of the race. Regarding Pierre’s reactions, no more than the other guys. They are fighters, just right after the race, they are disappointed, it’s normal. We can talk for hours about the way he did it. But I’m just convinced it’s an epiphenomenon.”
Here’s how F1 Japanese GP panned out