Alpine: Gasly/Ocon late switch in F1 Japanese GP right thing to do

Alpine interim Formula 1 team principal Bruno Famin said it did the right thing swapping places with Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon on the final lap of the Japanese Grand Prix.

Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523

Gasly was asked to move aside and let team-mate Ocon through to take ninth place on the last lap at Suzuka, having earlier been gifted the position in a team order swap.

At that stage of the race, Gasly was on fresher rubber and Alpine believed that if he was let through by Ocon he would have a chance to close in on the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso who was ahead of them on the track.

When it became clear that Gasly was not going to get close enough to Alonso, it issued the order for him to reverse their positions back.

But Gasly was unhappy about that late call, after feeling the situation had not been discussed beforehand and thinking that it was unfair as he was on a faster strategy.

He also said he did not understand why the team needed to make the call, as it did not gain them any positions.

“As a team 10th and ninth or ninth and 10th is the same, but it was definitely not something I expected,” he said. “It's not something I really understand as well as I was the leading car, so we'll talk about it.”

But Famin, who has been running Alpine since previous team principal Otmar Szafnauer left following the Belgian GP, said there is no reason for anyone to be upset over what happened – as he played down talk of tension within the outfit.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523, Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523, Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

“We don't have any problem between the drivers,” explained Famin. “I think it's [because] they are all fighting for having their own best results, which is normal and what they are paid for. But they are also paid for having the best team results.

“Of course, with the stress of the race, we may have some declarations [that are] a bit strong, but I have absolutely no doubt about the drivers being on the same line together.

“For having the best team result, we left Pierre in front of Esteban to have the possibility, even if it was small, of trying to catch Fernando. This was not possible [in the end] so to swap back is very normal.”

Famin spoke to Gasly about the situation after the Japanese GP, as he also suggested that Alpine needed to clarify whether communication with the Frenchman could have been better during the race.

“This is the point we need to check to be totally transparent,” he said, when asked about whether the instructions to Gasly were clear.

“I don't know when it has been said, and that is the point we need to clarify. Sometimes we have communication problems because the line [radio signal] is not so good. Or sometimes the engineer thinks they are clear when they say something, but maybe sometimes the driver doesn't record it because he is focused on something else.

Pierre Gasly, Alpine F1 Team

Pierre Gasly, Alpine F1 Team

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

“We need to check whether the driver received well the information. But anyway, the manoeuvre was done in the interests of the team, and I have absolutely no doubt that both drivers agree with that.

“If we have to do it a bit differently the other way [around] during the coming races, they will do it. They know that, and there is no tension. It is just execution of the race.”

Asked if he was surprised and disappointed that Gasly had vented his frustrations in public, rather than dealing with matters behind closed doors, Famin said: “No more than the other guys. They are fighters, just right after the race, they are disappointed, it's normal.

“We can talk for hours about the way he did it. But I'm just convinced it's an epiphenomenon [byproduct].”

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