It’s the French Formula One team: Pierre Gasly joins Esteban Ocon in 2023 to form a duo of French drivers within Alpine, aiming to help the French team regain the heights of the world championship.
Normandy reunited! Leaving his AlphaTauri team and signing for “several years”, Rouen native Pierre Gasly will join Esteban Ocon, his former karting teammate from Evreux, within Alpine, a brand founded in… Dieppe .
“The fact that it’s a French team is obviously emotionally very special,” said Gasly, 26, as did Ocon, who will replace Spaniard Fernando Alonso, who is leaving for Aston Martin.
It is also the end of the story between Pierre Gasly and the Red Bull galaxy, who trained him and then brought him up to F1 in 2017 within the Toro Rosso satellite team (now AlphaTauri). “A real chapter that is closing and a new adventure that is beginning”, reaffirms before the Japanese GP this weekend, Gasly, who will make his “own escape”.
AlphaTauri, compensated by Alpine because Gasly was under contract until the end of 2023, will replace Gasly with the 27-year-old Dutchman Nyck de Vries, Formula E (electric) champion 2021. Pierre Gasly, whose future at Red Bull was blocked by world champion Max Verstappen and his teammate Sergio Pérez, find an ideal way out.
Alpine also comes out stronger after a difficult summer. Surprised by Alonso’s departure, the team had formalized his replacement by its reserve driver Oscar Piastri. But the 21-year-old Australian had other plans – he had already signed with McLaren for 2023.
“We will come out on top, with the best driver available today,” Laurent Rossi, CEO of Alpine, told AFP. “Gasly is exactly what we need,” he continues. “He showed that he could win, score big points and at the same time he is very young”.
Alpine also brings in another Grand Prix winner. A few months before Ocon (Hungary 2021), in 2020 in Italy, Gasly had become the first Frenchman to win a GP since Olivier Panis in 1996. The two Norman drivers, 26, grew up together in karting, on the Anneville circuit -Ambourville, near Rouen.
“Esteban was there on my first laps, and twenty years later we find ourselves in the same team in F1, and come more or less from the same hometown in Normandy, it’s incredible”, smiles Gasly.
We were just two little kids from Normandy with an impossible dream. Welcome to the Alpine family Pierrot, let’s make our team and our country proud \ud83c\uddeb\ud83c\uddf7
— Esteban Ocon (@OconEsteban) 8 October 2022
Although their relationship was then blurred, their paths are inseparable, from karting to Formula 1: seen by F1 teams, Gasly joined the Red Bull sector, Ocon in the Mercedes fold.
After Ocon in 2016 with the Manor team, Gasly joined F1 in 2017 with Toro Rosso. Both have exceeded 100 Grand Prix in 2022. They have known victory. But also difficulties. For Gasly, it was the emotional lift of 2019. Promoted to the official Red Bull team, he has no time to convince that he is already relegated in the middle of the season. Back to the AlphaTauri box.
Ocon, he is pushed in 2019 towards the exit by the arrival of the Canadian Lance Stroll, whose billionaire father had just bought Force India (became Racing Point and then Aston Martin).
Water flowed under the bridges
Ocon will then be Mercedes’ reserve driver for a year before signing with Renault in 2020. Seeing them reunited, at least until 2024, could almost seem natural. However, their life together will not be easy: although they respect each other as athletes, they are no longer friends.
“Esteban showed a pleasant maturity, assures Rossi. It was not the most obvious choice for him, given their commitments, (…) but he took it very well and the two had the same reaction: water has run under the bridge “.
“We are both smart and mature enough to measure the responsibility it takes to represent a brand like Alpine and a group as big as Renault,” explains Gasly. “And we both have the same ambitions, to be at the front”. Currently the 5th team on the grid, Alpine has set itself the goal of fighting for wins by 2024.