During the concluding phase of the recent Japanese Grand Prix, Pierre Gasly was instructed to yield his position to his comrade Esteban Ocon as a compensatory response to a previous on-track manoeuvre, with both drivers occupying ninth and tenth spots respectively. However, in a surprise turn of events, Gasly resisted the instructions handed out to him, only succumbing to Ocon on the concluding final lap following persistent persuasions from his race engineer.
Gasly’s aggravated reaction was pinned down to his belief that his vehicle was swifter on the track that day, combined with a quicker strategic plan that would have guaranteed him a higher position. His misinterpretation was also due to an alleged lack of prior race communication regarding the possibility of such a circumstance.
Nonetheless, Alpine‘s interim team principal, Bruno Famin, backed the decision to swap positions. According to Famin, the shift was a fair outcome as Gasly was solely permitted to overtake Ocon to survey his potential to overtake Fernando Alonso‘s Aston Martin. Once Ocon realized overtaking wasn’t feasible, his position was switched with Gasly’s.
Ocon, on the other hand, expressed no befuddlement, arguing that Alpine‘s policy pertaining to the case had consistently been adhered to. He expounded, “I’ve been with this team for four years now and the rule has always been this one, with Daniel (Ricciardo), with Fernando. If one driver swaps position, in that instance I gave the position to Pierre, he needs to get the position in front, which was Fernando, to be keeping that position.”
To that end, if Ocon had been on the opposing side, he maintained he would have adhered to the same modus operandi. He commented, “Otherwise, you just give the place back to your teammate. That’s always what we’ve done. If I’m on the other side, I will obviously do the same.”
Notably, Ocon discarded the notion that Gasly’s claim that his speed on the race day automatically made him deserving of the higher position was irrelevant. He explained, “It’s not really relevant. You can be as fast as you want. If you don’t make the move, then you never know who’s going to be in front. And before that, I was in front.”
To this end, he confirmed that there would be a team discussion to improve on the situation. He echoed, “Obviously, we will discuss that to see what we could have done better, (more) clearly as a team.”
Thus, Ocon points out that this has been the team’s policy before, referring to instances in Brazil 2021, Fernando and Sochi 2020, Daniel. He insists that he was not surprised this was the case against Gasly.
Despite the early chaos in Turn 1 with Valtteri Bottas and Alex Albon that resulted in an immediate pitstop remedy due to a puncture, Ocon was delighted and rather startled to win points. He recounted, “Yeah, definitely, I thought it was a race over from lap one when I got that puncture. I saw all these cars sandwiched on the side, and there was not much anybody could have done alright, it is an unfortunate incident.”
Despite the incident, he states, “The safety car helped things, I boxed and slowly with a one-stop hard-hard we managed to finish a very decent race and optimise our results.”
Ultimately, rounding out the event, he confirmed, “We ended up with both cars in the points, a sizable compensation after a challenging week in which we were unable to reach our anticipated pace.”