Szafnauer reveals how Ocon helped Alonso at end of Canadian GP

Alpine Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon during Canadian Grand Prix. Montreal, June 2022.

Alpine's Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon during Canadian Grand Prix. Montreal, June 2022.

Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer has explained how Esteban Ocon played a crucial role in helping Fernando Alonso towards the end of the Canadian GP.

The French team secured a sixth and, initially, a seventh place with Ocon coming home ahead of Alonso, with the Spaniard annoyed over team radio after looking for team orders to get him past Ocon in the closing stages.

This was after Alpine kept Alonso out long for the first stint, with the Spaniard struggling for pace on his aging tyres after starting from second on the grid. Alonso crossed the line to finish in seventh but, after being summoned before the stewards for weaving in defence on the final lap, was given a five-second time penalty. This penalty dropped him to ninth place.

With Alonso saying he had “been quicker all weekend” than Ocon, Szafnauer explained afterward that the positioning of the two cars had been considered by the team and left alone, as Alonso needed the use of DRS from Ocon as a result of an engine issue on Alonso’s car.

“In the middle of the race, he started complaining about excessive clipping and it looked like he might have some kind of air leak but we need to assess,” Szafnauer told Sky F1 afterwards.

“Esteban didn’t have any problems [and] was a bit quicker at the end. He just dropped back such that we had a DRS train.

“I think without the DRS train and the excessive clipping, Fernando would have been at risk of being overtaken and Esteban helped.”

Addressing the fact that Alonso clearly wished to be ahead of Ocon at the chequered flag, having only been undone by the timing of the Safety and Virtual Safety Cars, Szafnauer said it wouldn’t have been possible to make the change.

“We couldn’t switch the order because, then, we would have really been vulnerable,” he said.

“So yeah, it was the right thing to do and Esteban held back in order to allow that DRS train. He could have just gone away with it but that’s not good for the team.”

An annoyed Alonso explained the race from his perspective, saying that he felt other drivers had gotten lucky with the timing of the VSC.

“I think we were unlucky on the Virtual Safety Car,” he said.

“So, when we decided to box, it was just as the VSC ended, so we stayed out. 10 seconds more, it [would have been] enough to make the stop. So yeah, other people behind us got very lucky once more, and overtook us under the VSC.

“Then the biggest problem was from lap 20-something. I had an engine problem, with a battery system. So I was clipping in the middle of the straight. I was losing like eight-tenths per lap. I had to just overdrive the car on the corners to try to keep the DRS train because, if not, we were very vulnerable on the straight.

“So [it was a] very, very difficult race, and again, an engine problem on my car is a little bit frustrating.”

A beaming Ocon praised the team effort from Alpine: “We played the team game at the end to try and not get Bottas passing Fernando and we did that perfectly. We executed everything nicely, and we can proud of ourselves.”

Despite Alonso’s disappointment with falling away to a seventh place after starting from the front row, the two-time World Champion said there were plenty of positives to take from the weekend.

“I mean the car was very fast,” he said.

“And without the engine problem, we were P3 in front of Lewis [Hamilton] in that moment of the race. We were managing the distance with him and trying to follow Carlos and Verstappen. So, without the engine problem, I think P3 or P4 was still possible, even with the Safety Car.”