Silly season in Formula 1 2022 isn’t yet over but one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle has finally fallen into place.
Pierre Gasly had a contract at AlphaTauri until the end of 2023 but has now been confirmed as a replacement for the departing Fernando Alonso at Alpine next year. However, there appears to be one interesting factor about the move: his relationship with Esteban Ocon.
It has been reported the pair don’t see eye to eye, but what is the cause of the rumoured rift?
According to Gasly, it can be traced back to their karting days. Speaking before the pair even landed in F1, he said: “We’ve spent a lot of time together but it got to a point where he got a bit too upset and it wasn’t so nice anymore. Then after we always had a rivalry.
“I started to beat him and he didn’t like it so we’re not friends any more. We can spend time together, we respect each other, [but] it doesn’t go further than that.”
Ocon difficult to work with
If history has taught us anything, warring teammates in Formula 1 is a recipe for disaster, and Ocon himself is no stranger to inter-garage controversy.
He famously had a frosty tenure at Force India and then Racing Point alongside Sergio Perez and there have been signs of brewing tension with Alonso of late. Former F1 driver turned Sky Sports pundit Paul di Resta believes this pattern is the rule rather than the exception.
“It’s no secret that he [Gasly] and Ocon don’t necessarily get on too well,” Di Resta said at the 2022 Belgian Grand Prix. “I don’t think too many teammates get on with Ocon, to be honest.
“You heard Fernando on the radio. They work together on track but off it? He can be quite difficult. Sergio Perez had the same issue.”
There will be fireworks
Another paddock regular who has weighed in on the matter is Karun Chandhok. According to the Sky Sports F1 analyst, pitting the two against each other is a risky move for the midfield outfit that can ill afford to lose vital points to quarreling teammates.
“I think there will, 100 percent, be fireworks,” Chandhok told Express Sport. “It seems to be an issue that started back in their karting days and it’s quite a deeply ingrained issue they had with each other.
“I think it goes both ways, I don’t know the full ins and outs of it but it’s quite clear there’s no love lost.
“It’ll take a pretty strong bit of management from Alpine to keep a lid on that. Ultimately, as a team they’ve got to sign the driver they think will bring them the most points and the best results.
“If that’s Gasly then they’ve just got to suck it up and somehow make sure it doesn’t boil over.
“They’ve got to be professional about it, they’ve got to be grown up about it. If you had an issue when you were 14 years old in karting, that’s fine, but now you’re in Formula 1 and you’ve got to be grown-ups about it.”
Ocon open to Gasly partnership
Despite the rumours, Ocon maintained he has respect for Gasly and insisted he would be open to the idea of forming an all-French line-up alongside him at Alpine.
When asked by Autosport if the two could work together, he replied: “Yeah. It’s going well, we have respect for each other. I think that’s the important thing.”
While respect between the friends-turned-foes and soon-to-be teammates might exist, Ocon unusually revealed he would have preferred to partner Mick Schumacher for 2023.
“It doesn’t matter in the end who’s next to me,” Ocon said. “I will keep the job that I’m doing now with my team, keeping understanding the car and the progress that we’ve made since I joined the team in 2020. It’s been huge.
“It’s not my decision. But I would be very happy to work with Mick. He’s a good friend of mine. So again, the team, it’s for them to decide, not for me. But if that ended up like this, it is going to be a great ride.”