Gasly, in the concluding circuit of the Suzuka Grand Prix, was ordered by the team to allow fellow racer Ocon to surpass him for the ninth slot. This incidence occurred after the team order exchange earlier permitted him to secure that position.
In the last leg of the race, Gasly had an advantage with the fresher rubber, as perceived by the Alpine team. They postulated that if Ocon allowed Gasly to surpass him, Gasly would have a fair chance against Fernando Alonso from Aston Martin, who was leading them on the track.
However, it soon became evident that Gasly would not be able to approach Alonso closely. Thus the team instructed him to revert their positions. Gasly’s dissatisfaction with this late decision arose from the fact that there were no prior discussions about this possibility and he believed it to be inequitable as he was employing a faster strategy.
He was not clear why the team felt the need to make the call as it yielded no gain in their placements. He said, “As a team 10th and ninth or ninth 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.”
Famin, the acting head of Alpine since Otmar Szafnauer‘s departure post Belgian GP, believes that no reasons justify any feelings of being hard done by. He focused on alleviating rumours of friction within the team saying, “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. 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.”
Clarifying the drivers switch, Famin said, “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 [in the end] so to swap back is very normal.” Famin also shared that he had a conversation with Gasly post the race, indicating that the Alpine’s communication with him during the race could have been clearer.
When asked if Gasly was given clear instructions, Famin said, “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 [radio signal] 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.”
Famin expressed the need to verify the proper communication of these instructions, however, he was confident about the drivers agreeing to the manoeuvre for the team’s interest. He stated, “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.”
Famin did not react strongly to Gasly’s outburst in public regarding this issue, saying, “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 [byproduct].”