Why Alpine must do all it can to snatch Gasly from Red Bull

Why Alpine must do all it can to snatch Gasly from Red Bull

19 August - 11:36

Following the announced departure of Fernando Alonso, Alpine has a hole in its line-up for 2023. However, one can question the long-term planning of the French racing stable given the contract of Esteban Ocon.

Long contracts in F1

Long contracts are becoming more common in Formula 1. Max Verstappen tops the charts with a contract until 2028 at Red Bull Racing, but Lando Norris (2025) and Charles Leclerc (2024) were also signed up early on for a longer period by their teams. A longer contract for Ocon therefore did not seem a bad idea at first sight.

However, there is a difference between the contracts of Verstappen, Norris and Leclerc compared to those of Ocon. The three drivers are clearly the best drivers for their team and so it is not surprising that these teams want to bind the young talents for a longer period of time and then look at the position of the second driver. With Ocon, however, this is not the case.

Ricciardo proves too strong

The Frenchman returned to F1 in 2020 after a year on the sidelines, as Mercedes could not find a place for their youngster when he was pushed aside by Racing Point. Ocon's return to F1 that year was met with disappointment. Despite his announced departure at the start of the year, Daniel Ricciardo dominated his teammate. The Australian won the qualifying duel convincingly 15-2 with a difference of 0.261s per qualifying. The difference in points (119 to 62) was also huge.

With Ricciardo's departure, Ocon's problem was not yet solved. Fernando Alonso was brought in as the new leader. The Spaniard had to settle down after two seasons on the sidelines, but was far from rusty. The qualifying duel ended in a draw (11-11), but Alonso scored seven points more than his teammate despite winning in Hungary.

Not quicker than Alonso either

The victory in Hungary disguised a lot for the Frenchman that year, but the driver who was under pressure at the beginning of the year was suddenly offered a contract until 2024. Remarkable for a driver who cannot even beat his teammate, who had not driven an F1 car for two years, and who was left without a chance by Ricciardo the year before.

In 2022, Ocon, with that contract in his pocket, is not convincing either. Yes, he has scored more points than Alonso (so far), but that is also because the Spaniard has had a lot of bad luck due to stoppages and strange choices at the pit wall. In qualifying, the two-time world champion has the upper hand again, with an 8-5 lead in the qualifying duel and an average lead per qualifying session of 0.124s. So Ocon is all but running away from his teammate.

Strange policy from Alpine

Alpine has put itself in a remarkable position. It has a driver under contract until 2024, who has actually shown for years that he cannot lead the team. Ricciardo (who has barely impressed at McLaren) and Alonso are at least his equal or stronger over a full season. Alonso's departure makes Alpine's situation all the more painful.

With Alonso, it had a star. The two-time world champion may not always be the easiest to deal with, but he was a born leader and an excellent driver. With his departure, Alpine has to find a new leader, but there are not many to choose from. Ironically, the only big name that can be found is Ricciardo. However, the chances of him returning are slim given the earlier break-up and his form is a worry.

So Alpine will have to rely on a young talent for 2023. Mick Schumacher is mentioned and also Theo Pourchaire would be a candidate. However, both are not capable of leading the team, so Alpine is stuck with two 'second drivers'. Pierre Gasly would still be the best man for Alpine, but he recently signed with AlphaTauri until 2023 and can only leave Red Bull after that season. If Alpine wants to have the strongest possible line-up for 2023, however, it will have to do all it can to get the AlphaTauri front-runner.

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