Esteban Ocon has insisted he will not allow Fernando Alonso to dominate at Alpine next year in the way he did against Stoffel Vandoorne with McLaren.
And the Frenchman added that if he had any fears about taking on the two-time former World Champion, he would quit the sport!
Ocon and Alonso will be team-mates next year when Renault are rebranded to Alpine, with the Spaniard returning to Formula 1 after two years away as the replacement for McLaren-bound Daniel Ricciardo.
When Alonso last raced in F1, for McLaren in 2018, he achieved a best result of P5 at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix but swept the board against his team-mate Vandoorne in qualifying with a 21-0 head-to-head record.
Alonso showed in the Abu Dhabi ‘young driver’ post-season test – he was given a special dispensation to take part – that he had retained his old dash and he will be determined to make a success of his return.
But equally Ocon, who will be in his second year with the team, does not want to be put in the shade, especially considering he was outqualified 15-2 by Ricciardo in 2020.
“I’m not Vandoorne,” said the 24-year-old, who finished second to Sergio Perez in the Sakhir Grand Prix, quoted by Formula Passion. “I don’t know what happened then.
“Fernando is a very talented driver, twice World Champion. It will be very difficult to beat him and I am aware of that. But I will push as hard as I can and he will do the same.
“I am not afraid of him. If I had any [fears] I would have to leave Formula 1 right away.”
— Renault F1 Team (@RenaultF1Team) December 15, 2020
Ocon knows what it is like to have a significantly more experienced team-mate for that was also the case in the 2016 DTM series when, aged 19, he partnered Gary Paffett, 15 years his senior, before switching to F1 to drive for Manor.
“He impressed me from day one,” said Ocon about Paffett. “He was incredibly fast and reliable, so I think it will be the same with Fernando.
“From the beginning he will be there with the others. Already now he actively participates in the technical meetings.”
Of the 2020 season, Ocon concluded: “”It wasn’t an easy World Championship at all.
“It was crucial to build a strong relationship with the team and get to know everyone, and transferring the trust to the car took longer than expected. Now I have it and it shows.
“It is a consequence of such a condensed season – normally there would have been far fewer races in that length of time. There is almost no time to analyse what we do on the track because we go back to another circuit and there is another race.
“I also think having a year out didn’t help me. I had great pace at the end of 2018 and after being out you need some time to update. But I don’t use it as an excuse in terms of the standings.”