Esteban Ocon says being teammate to Fernando Alonso has helped him improve as a driver, and says the reputation that the Spaniard is tough to work with is not accurate.
Alonso returned to Formula 1 in 2021 to partner Ocon following the departure of Daniel Ricciardo to McLaren, and the pair led Alpine to fifth in the constructors’ championship. They finished just seven points and one place apart in the drivers’ standings, with Ocon winning his first race in Hungary and Alonso on the podium in Qatar, and the Frenchman says he tried to learn as much as possible from the two-time world champion.
“A lot of people said Fernando was very difficult to work with, that he had a reputation for breaking teammates and all that,” Ocon said. “I wanted to see it from my eyes, I wanted to see if what people were saying was true and in the end it wasn’t. We’ve just had a fantastic collaboration all together.
“He’s a hell of a racer — he’s extremely extremely fast, for sure the fastest teammate I’ve had for a while. I was very happy to work alongside him. I’ve learned a lot alongside him — just the way Fernando thinks out of the box, where some other drivers would not think about or even the team would not think about stuff. It’s pushing the limit to strategies or how we can optimize everything — in that regard I’ve definitely learned a lot.
“Also racecraft, I think I’ve picked up quite a lot of things from him — looking at his first laps, which is something I’ve always been doing, always been following what he has been doing. And towards the end of the year I was only gaining positions not losing any, and I was doing great first laps.
“It is a privilege to be working alongside a legend like him and I put him as a reference for sure in the beginning of the year. I was happy to see that I was matching him in terms of pace and we were pushing each other and in the end that gave the team the maximum we could have, basically, and were extracting the maximum out of the package most of the time, so that was good.”
Despite each coming into F1 during very different eras, Ocon says he and Alonso actually share a lot of similarities when it comes to what they want from a car.
“Of course the driving styles are quite different but in the end our feedback is exactly the same. When both cars are working normally, we’ve had very close qualifying pace and all that, we had exactly the same feedback. And the cars were very close together I have to say — on most occasions, there was maybe half a percent or a percent front wing flap, but that was it in the end; there was not a lot more going on.
“For sure his driving style was suiting some tracks more than me — I had times where my driving style was maybe a little bit nicer to the tires. Trying to experiment… for sure I did, at some point, I was obviously not closing my eyes and just not looking at what Fernando is doing, but I think he’s been the teammate I’ve been closest with in terms of setup and actually driving — carrying the speed, exiting the corners, this has been very similar between us so it’s been interesting.”