On paper, the result of the stopover in Japan this weekend did not look so bad for Alpine. In difficulty since the start of the season, the French team won three precious points, by placing its two drivers in the top 10, Esteban Ocon (9th) ahead of Pierre Gasly (10th) in the final lap. However, in the mixed zone, the second named did not hide his dissatisfaction, angry by the instructions of his team.
It was the images of the Rouennais’ lap of honor, once the line was crossed, which best allowed us to realize the extent of the problem. For 30 seconds, Gasly cursed behind his halo, making numerous gestures of humor, including the beginnings of the middle finger outside his car. A few moments earlier, he had been forced to give up his 10th place to his teammate, after having been encouraged at length by Alpine.
A contested strategy
“I have an instruction from the wall. We will swap positions please,” his race engineer Karel Loos told him during the penultimate lap. Before adding in the face of his pilot’s protests: “We’ll discuss this at the office, please. Leave your position. » In Gasly’s helmet, incomprehension was the order of the day. “Wait, what do you mean? You are laughing at me. I was faster, I had better tires. If he hadn’t let me pass, I would have overtaken him in any case. »
To understand the problem, we had to go back to the 47th lap. While Max Verstappen, future winner, pranced in the lead, Ocon was in difficulty in his chase behind Fernando Alonso. His team therefore invited him to give up his place to Gasly, who was running with a better pace and fresher tires… But after failing to catch up with the Spaniard, the latter was invited, in turn, to give up his position .
“I don’t understand the decision”
“I don’t understand the decision to change the places at the end, knowing that it had not been discussed before the race,” he regretted, bitterly, at the finish. We had said that if they decided to undercut me with Esteban to help him during his race, we would exchange positions at the end. That’s what we did but in the last round, I was asked to swap again. Which wasn’t logical. » Especially since in the drivers’ championship, Gasly (46 points) is currently quite clearly ahead of his teammate (38 points).
Beneficiary of these behind-the-scenes decisions, Ocon for his part was delighted, at the finish, with a “crazy” race for Alpine. “We had a puncture at the start, I did three-quarters of the first lap on three wheels, without having too much damage on the flat floor. We managed to change the tires and get going again and the pace wasn’t so bad despite the damage, so it was a good rescue race, rejoiced the Norman. We did good teamwork to bring both cars back into the points. » It now remains to be seen how this Japanese episode will be digested by his teammate…
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