Alpine checked Pierre Gasly’s arrival would not be disruptive for Esteban Ocon before creating the all-French pairing for 2023, team principal Otmar Szafnauer has revealed.
Gasly and Ocon raced together as juniors but have had a challenging personal relationship in the years since, leading to uncertainty over whether Alpine would pair them together when looking for a replacement for Fernando Alonso. With Gasly now confirmed on a multi-year deal, Szafnauer says he did speak with Ocon about the potential of them becoming team-mates.
“We made an informed decision and that means talking to the entire team — including Esteban — beforehand to make sure that, if we did make a decision, it’s a team sport and we have to be able to work together and optimize,” Szafnauer said.
“Esteban was very supportive; Pierre as well. They’re professionals and they have no issue working together. Hopefully the friendship will rekindle. They were friends at one point, but from a professional perspective they’re both very happy to work with each other.
“They’ve known each other for a very long time and they’ve raced together. They’re about equally experienced, they’re both very fast, both ambitious, so I think they’ll work well together.”
Szafnauer believes going after Gasly was particularly important because he blends a number of characteristics that neither Fernando Alonso nor his planned replacement Oscar Piastri could offer on their own.
“We started looking around as to who would be a best fit and we had some criteria to work to. The three things we wanted [were], naturally: speed — a fast driver, one with experience, and also youth at the same time. Adding all three things up, there aren’t many people that have all that and Pierre definitely does. We thought he was a great fit for us and we put him on our shortlist and then went about getting it done.
“It was maybe a week or so, not even [after Alonso left that talks started]. Shortlist first — when it looked like Oscar wasn’t 100 percent certain with some of the contractual issues that we had, then we started working on a shortlist of who else it could be and Pierre was on it.
“…One of the reasons was he was going to become available in ’24, not for ’23, and then it became quite evident to us. Like I said before, he’s got youth, experience and speed, and that’s difficult to say for a lot of drivers that are still within Formula 1. Even [Alonso and Piastri] didn’t have those things, so we’re fortunate to secure Pierre and look forward to working with him.”