Alpine: Ocon and Gasly swap back “done in the interests of the team” at the end of F1 Japanese GP

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During the Japanese Grand Prix, which was held last weekend at the legendary Suzuka circuit, we were able to observe different incidents between teammates.

On the one hand we have the fight that occurred between both Mercedes drivers. Very early in the race, George Russell began attacking his teammate and seven-time world champion, Lewis Hamilton. On multiple occasions they both almost made contact.

Another team that had infighting was Alpine. At one point in the race, both Alpines were in P9 and P10, with Ocon ahead of Gasly. However, Pierre Gasly’s Alpine had newer, fresher tyres by 6 laps, so the French team decided to ask Ocon to let his stablemate pass.

This with the intention that Gasly can get closer to Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin and at some point overtake him. Seeing that this was not going to happen since the gap was still too big heading into the final couple of laps, Alpine ordered him to return the position to Ocon.

It enraged Gasly because he was given this instruction on the last lap, in addition to the fact that according to the French driver, there had not been any internal discussion within the team to see what was going to be done if this scenario happened.

Another argument on Gasly’s part was that he was on a faster strategy and got undercut earlier in the race when he was ahead.

“As a team, 10th and 9th or 9th and 10th is the same, but it was definitely not something I expected.

“It’s not something I really understand as well as I was the leading car, so we’ll talk about it,” Pierre Gasly stated.

Photo Credit: BWT Alpine F1 Team

Despite this, Alpine’s interim team principal, Bruno Famin, has stated that they did the right thing in order to keep things calm between their drivers. Swapping positions and then giving it back if it doesn’t work has been a common theme at Alpine for a few years now.

“We don’t have any problem between the drivers. I think it’s [because] 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,” Bruno Famin commented.

“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.”

Pierre Gasly’s anger was very clear, since when he let his teammate pass on the last lap, and after having crossed the finish line, the French driver began to make gestures with his hands in frustration, a fact that brought the controversy to attention.

“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 driver 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.”