Esteban Ocon says his Alpine team didn’t need to give him any instructions ahead of the final safety car restart in the Brazilian Grand Prix as he knew how to deal with his faster teammate Fernando Alonso.
Ocon sat in eighth position in the pecking order as he prepared for the restart, just behind Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel but ahead of Alonso.
However, with the Spaniard running on a set of fresher tires, the Alpine pitwall informed Ocon not to focus on Alonso, and to let the Spaniard through “nice and clean”.
“Let me race, at the [right] moment I will, once the situation is settled a bit more. We can lose everything now also at the restart,” answered Ocon.
But in light of the Alpine pair’s clash in Saturday’s Sprint event and the bad blood that ensued, as expressed by Alonso, Ocon’s response was interpreted by his race engineer as perhaps a reflection of the Frenchman’s reluctance to move aside for his teammate.
“Esteban, I don’t want you fighting with Fernando. Is that understood?” he insisted.
Again, Ocon repeated that his priority was Vettel, not Alonso. And on the restart, Ocon overhauled Vettel in short order and then let Alonso through without undue delay
“I think it’s been not very well translated,” Ocon said of the radio exchange with his engineer. “Because people thought I didn’t want to let Fernando past.
“I said, no, I don’t let him pass at the restart. I’m going to pass Seb. And then once the situation is settled, we will figure that out,
“I’m not going to fight. I’m going to let him go. And that’s what I did. I couldn’t have held them. He was very fast on the soft tire. And obviously, there were points for the whole team to grab.
“So I knew I was in a situation, and the team didn’t need to tell me what to do.”
- Read also: Alonso penalized for Ocon clash: ‘Both drivers let the team down’
Twenty-four hours after their on-track spat in the Sprint race, and after Alonso’s disgruntled public comments on Ocon, the Frenchman insisted there was no prevailing tension between the two drivers.
“Well, I mean, it wasn’t too nice what he said in the media,” said Ocon.
“I always have a lot of respect for him. He’s a legend and I will keep respect for him forever. And, yeah, it doesn’t matter what he said to you guys. I prefer when we speak together.”
After the team’s disastrous Sprint race on Saturday, Alpine prospects for Sunday looked dim, with both drivers starting on the penultimate row of the grid.
But Alonso and Ocon made the most of Alpine’s pace and of the race’s circumstances, with the duo’s strong drives to P5 and P8 respectively delivering 14 points to the Enstone squad on a weekend when championship rival McLaren salvaged just 2 points.
Alpine now holds a 19-point lead in the Constructors’ standings over McLaren ahead of this week’s finale in Abu Dhabi, an edge that puts its fourth-place position in the championship almost out of reach of McLaren.
“I’m super happy for the team. In general, I think 14 points is a game-changer for us at this stage, there is only one race to go. And we go into Abu Dhabi with a big cushion,” commented Ocon .
“So starting from where we were the car was really, really quick. And yeah, we can be glad that we tried two different strategies. One worked a bit better than the other, but we covered ourselves and we executed both perfectly.
“We can’t relax. Still, we’re going to have to be pushing like crazy into the last round, but clearly going with some points ahead that definitely gives us a little bit of pressure off.”
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