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Formula 1 Monaco GP

Alpine not ruling out F1 driver line-up change after latest Ocon Gasly clash

Alpine is putting all options on the table, including a potential change to its Formula 1 driver line-up, to ensure there is no further trouble between its team-mates.

Pierre Gasly, Alpine A524, Esteban Ocon, Alpine A524, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR24, the remainder of the field at the start

The French manufacturer nearly had both its cars out of the Monaco Grand Prix early on after Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly collided on the exit of Portier on the opening lap of the original start.

Ocon had made an optimistic lunge down the inside of Gasly on the entry to the corner and, as they exited, they clashed wheels.

The incident pitched Ocon into the air and badly damaged his car as it crashed back down – putting him out of the race. Gasly was able to continue and went on to score his first point of the season with a 10th-place finish.

Ocon later took full blame for the incident and apologised to the team. He was subsequently handed a 10-second penalty by the FIA, which will be converted to a five-place grid penalty for his next race.

Team principal Bruno Famin was clearly far from impressed about what happened, and he vented his anger from the pit wall as Canal+ interviewed him live.

He said: “We have a lot of damage on the car. The left-rear suspension is bent, the gearbox casing is damaged. We're changing the whole gearbox, it's a huge amount of work.

“This kind of incident is sad, it's exactly what we didn't want to see. Esteban's dive was completely out of place, it was exactly what we didn't want to see, and there will be the appropriate consequences.”

Asked how serious his response would be, one English translation of his words was: “We’re going to take drastic action.”

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

That has been interpreted by some as a direct threat about benching Ocon, for one race or more, as punishment for what was felt to have been a needless collision.

However, the exact phrase Famin used in French – ‘trancher dans le vif” – is not something that can be translated directly to English.

What comes closest is ‘cut to the chase’ or ‘cut right into the core’ – and effectively means making a definite call to get something done properly.

Famin did not issue any further public remarks about his stance on the incident or the subsequent action, beyond the official team press release on Sunday night.

There he said: “As a team, we will review and manage the incident between both cars behind closed doors. We must avoid situations that have the potential to compromise the team.”

However, Autosport understands that Famin is fuming about what happened, and thinks that this latest collision is the final straw to a situation that has been bubbling away all season.

The team has been mindful since Bahrain that its competitive situation means it cannot let slip any opportunities to score points, so it has been instructing its drivers to take extra care when racing each other.

Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

It seems such policy was in play in Monaco too, as Gasly revealed afterwards that the rear car was supposed to help the one ahead.

“We had clear instructions before the race on what to do, and whoever qualified ahead, the trailing car was supposed to help throughout the race,” he said. “That was the strategy. Unfortunately, it didn't happen.”

Alarm bells have been ringing for a while though, as the pair battled ultra aggressively with each other on the opening lap of the Miami Grand Prix – where it was probably more through luck than skill that they did not actually make contact.

Having told the drivers after that incident to avoid such antics in the future, the fact that it has happened in a much worse way in Monaco has left Famin feeling that the situation cannot carry on as is.

No decision has been taken about what will be done, but it appears that he will do whatever it takes to guarantee no repeat in the future.

It is understood that a whole range of options are being considered – which could include financial penalties, team orders that totally prevent Ocon and Gasly fighting each other for position, or even the nuclear option: a change of driver line-up.

One other possibility could be for Alpine to go down the route that Mercedes did in 2016 after some worrying collisions between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Back then Mercedes drafted up a code of conduct that both drivers agreed to abide by, and a clear warning that any indiscretion would likely result in a one-race ban being imposed.

It is understood that Famin spoke to both drivers after the Monaco GP, with Ocon clearly under the spotlight for having been the catalyst for the collision.

And it is not lost on Alpine’s senior management that the French driver has a history of troublesome times with team-mates that have resulted in contact – including with Fernando Alonso at the same team and Sergio Perez at Force India.

All eyes will now be on Enstone to see just how big a step it feels it needs to make to do what is best for the team.

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