Esteban Ocon says he is ‘very confident’ in Alpine’s new hiring, as he looks to 2021 and acknowledges the challenge he will face in Fernando Alonso.

As they shed their Renault branding to become Alpine in the coming season, the French team have made a raft changes to their senior management, including a parent company CEO change in July, an Alpine CEO change at the start of this year, a change of team principal – albeit with a successor not yet confirmed – and a change in racing director.

Ocon has immense confidence in the new hiring, who he expects will advance the team after the departure of former team principal and erstwhile CEO, Cyril Abiteboul. The 24-year-old driver also says he’s spoken to key figures at the team as it takes on a new form.

“I’ve met with Laurent [Rossi, Alpine CEO], I’ve met Davide [Brivio, Alpine Racing director] on the phone [and] on video conference,” said Ocon to Sky Sports. “We spoke for a long time and we are in good hands. They are very humble people; very motivated.

“They are looking to make a step with the team, trying to guide us, and I feel very confident in the new people. Obviously I’m very sad to see Cyril [Abiteboul, former Renault F1 team principal] leave, he has brought us [along] with this project until we got here, and I wish him all the best.

“He’s someone that I really like, but the future is bright for our team.” In his first season of racing for the rebranded Alpine, Ocon hopes to begin the year as he ended 2020. Last year, the Frenchman struggled to match his teammate Daniel Ricciardo’s pace early on in the season, but caught up to the Australian – now with McLaren – at the very end of the year.

“I really want to start this season how I ended the last one — at a much higher level than where I started. Now I know the team better, they know me better, they know what I need. It should be easier for me to get around things, and yeah, to start ready and on top of my game,” Ocon shared.

In 2021, Ocon will face a new teammate in Fernando Alonso: a ruthless competitor and two-time champion with whom he says he never severed ties. He says he continued texting Alonso in his time away, and looks forward to facing his ‘very strong’ adversary come the start of 2021’s season.

“I never really switched off with [Alonso] when he wasn’t in the team,” said Ocon. “I was texting him during the year, sometimes on Instagram to [keep up with] what he was doing. Fernando is someone I really respect, as a driver I have so much respect for what he has done.

“Watching Michael [Schumacher] and him fighting, he was the person giving me the motivation. He has been practicing and coming to a great level straight away, he’s going to be a very strong opponent but I’m definitely going to fight hard. I know what I have to face, and I know I will be starting stronger than I did last year,” Ocon said.

Here’s how Esteban Ocon did in his WRC run

Here’s news on Davide Brivio joining Alpine

Here’s interim F1 livery of Alpine