Pierre Gasly has admitted he was “worried” how old foe Esteban Ocon would work with him at Alpine before joining the team for the F1 2023 season.
Gasly was signed by Alpine as a replacement for Aston Martin-bound Fernando Alonso for 2023, with the former Red Bull driver reuniting with Ocon.
The French drivers had an uneasy relationship growing up, sparking fears that the pair could prove challenging for the team to handle.
Pierre Gasly details Alpine relationship with Esteban Ocon
Gasly finished four points ahead of Ocon in the World Championship in his first season at Enstone, with the Alpine drivers claiming one podium apiece at Zandvoort and Monaco respectively in a turbulent season for Alpine.
Appearing on F1’s Beyond The Grid podcast, Gasly acknowledged that his relationship with Ocon is very different to the master-and-apprentice dynamic he enjoyed with Yuki Tsunoda at previous employers AlphaTauri – and he revealed that he was wary of how Ocon would conduct himself upon his arrival at Alpine.
He said: “I knew that it would not be easy, but at the same time I knew that we had grown up a lot. I was a little worried on how he would welcome me and how he would work with me.
“I wasn’t too tense. I knew how I would approach it and I’ve known Esteban for a long time, so I know how we work and we both are – and we have different personalities, we’re just two different types of people.
“But ultimately, I think we’ve been working really well. I think we understood the responsibility.
“My main concern was to work well with him – to make sure that we extracted the maximum out of the car; the maximum out of the team; that we’re both pushing in the same direction.
“Ultimately, there’s always going to be a healthy rivalry – one wanting to beat the other – and this happens in every team, but what I care the most about is just making sure that this doesn’t impact the evolution of the team and the evolution of the car.
“It’s fine to have a rivalry, but we both need to work towards the same direction and we’ve all got to be pushing the team forward and pushing the development – and, I must say, it’s been exactly what we’ve been doing.
“I will not say we’re friends – we don’t spend really much time together – but when we get to the track, this is work. And when we are at work, we are mature and responsible and we are delivering.
“We have quite similar feedback. We’ve been pushing the team and requesting pretty much the same thing out of that car and how we like the team to develop.
“So in terms of our working relationship, it’s very formal between us, but that’s all I can ask for because at the end of the day I just want to be competitive.
“I know Esteban won’t invite me for dinner, but I’m fine with that. It’s very different to what I had with Yuki. Yuki was very unique.”
Gasly compared his relationship with Tsunoda over the course of 2021/22 to that between Sir Jackie Stewart and Francois Cevert at Tyrrell, where the three-time World Champion took it upon himself to advise the emerging Frenchman.
The 27-year-old accepts that his dynamic with Ocon has a more competitive edge, but denied that his determination to beat his new team-mate is personal.
He explained: “In Austin, I had a chat with Sir Jackie Stewart and it was just very inspiring to hear about his relationship with Francois Cevert.
“As he was talking, it’s almost like I could relate to my relationship with Yuki in the way that he came to F1 and I was supporting and trying to help, and it was a very genuine and healthy relationship.
“Now with Esteban, we’re both fighting for our careers, we both want to make it to the top, we both want to be the leaders of the team.
“It’s fine, I accept that and I actually embrace the challenge and embrace the competition because, at the end of the day, Esteban is a very fast and very talented driver.
“He’s proved that and that’s what you need as a team: you need someone that’s going to be pushing you and someone that’s going to be pushing the team.
“You want someone that is competitive and I really respect that. I know how much he wants to beat me; at the same time. he knows exactly how much I want to beat him every single time.
“It’s not something personal because, at the end of the day, I care about all 19 drivers and I don’t want to beat Esteban – I want to beat everyone.
“To beat everyone, I need Esteban to be pushing me and to be pushing the team to improve the car and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing.
“I think it’s probably not as exciting for the media – they haven’t had all the sparks and stories and drama that people would have expected – but it’s been great.”
As well as outscoring Ocon over the course of the season, Gasly came out on top in the qualifying head-to-head battle at Alpine – starting ahead of his team-mate at 14 of the 22 rounds.
With the comparison between team-mates often used as a barometer of a driver’s performance, Gasly was delighted to be the top Alpine driver in his first season with the team.
He said: “It’s always important.
“You can ask any team-mate, any driver, you know that the first comparison people will have [is] the face to face with your team-mate, so it’s always something that is important.
“At the end of the day, I race to beat all the 19 other drivers, but ultimately when you’re fighting Max Verstappen with the Red Bull this season, the chances of beating him are very [small].
“But against your team-mate, you know that’s your team’s going to compare and people are going [to too]. Also, personally, it’s the person that you can compare directly inside the team, so it’s always important.
“I knew it would not be an easy one, especially coming for the first time into the team. Esteban has four seasons with them, so I knew it would take time and time is not what I really like.
“I’m not patient and really wanted things to work straight away. It took a few races and now I feel like we were getting on the right path.”