Alpine F1 – Esteban Ocon – Pierre Gasly, the origins of a rivalry

Alpine F1 - Esteban Ocon - Pierre Gasly, the origins of a rivalry
Between Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon, it’s a derby. One was born in Rouen on February 7, 1996, the other 45 minutes further south, a few months later. The two men have known each other almost forever and even did their first (real) karting laps together. Since then, their paths have intertwined and then moved apart, and could end up crossing again in a few weeks, if Alpine came to an agreement with Red Bull to get Gasly out of a stable that had become too small for his talent and his ambitions.

Their story would then take a new turn, after years of indifference which themselves followed a young friendship and then a few fractures. The two pilots met in the early 2000s, when they were seven years old. Ocon started karting very early. Gasly first tried football. “One day, I was going kart and he was playing footballsaid the current Alpine driver on the arrival of his compatriot in F1. My father said to him: ‘Why don’t you try Esteban’s karting? And after that, he quit football. So we know each other from the start“.

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The two boys then rub shoulders more and more regularly. Laurent, father of Ocon, sacrificed almost everything to fit out a truck allowing him to accompany his only son almost everywhere. Former karting champion, Jean-Jacques Gasly is a business manager. With his wife, Pascale, he manages to free up time and money, after having helped their four other children to finance their higher education. It’s time to get by: the parents of one help those of the other to make certain trips, exchange engines or transport equipment.

The context has changed

Young Gasly and Ocon are extremely talented. Their talent quickly takes them into the world of competition, ultra-competitive, and where each family already imagines, with more or less conviction, their offspring reaching the elite of motorsport. They compete at regional and then national level, alongside Anthoine Hubert or Charles Leclercbefore the European championships and the World Cup where they rub shoulders with Alexander Albon or even the outclassed Max Verstappen.

Esteban Ocon (Alpine) and Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)

Credit: Quentin Guichard

The level rises, the stakes change. In 2009, Gasly obtained the support of the French Motor Sport Federation and joined a very select program of young drivers. He was sent to Le Mans to become more professional, learn English quickly and take “media training” courses. Ocon is not there. He then entrusted his future to Gravity, a private and unofficially competing structure, affiliated with Renault. “The Federation never supported me, unfortunatelyconfided the youngest to theAFP in 2018. While I always worked hard when I went to the France team.”

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The context and the environment are now completely different since at their level, the karting seasons already cost several tens of thousands of euros. Personalities assert themselves, egos swell, wheels rub and so do fairings. In 2010, the two rivals meet in Braga, Portugal, for the KF3 World Cup.

All I see now is we respect each other on the floor

Comes one of the qualifying events. “Esteban literally cut the track, crossed the grass and rammed mesaid Gasly in the F1 podcast, Beyond the Gridin 2018. I was going to start third and he didn’t really like it. He sent me back and forthThis episode is neither the first nor the last of the rivalry between the two tricolor promises, but it marks a break.

A lot of things happened that I didn’t really likeadded the Rouennais. I respect the people who respect me but if one day they no longer respect me, I no longer respect the person either. I’ve been let down more than once, waited for an apology that didn’t come.”

Ocon, he was never verbose when discussing the underside of the conflict. “Pierre likes to express himself in the pressadded the protege of Alpine to theAFP. I prefer to keep things private. All I see now is we respect each other on the floorSome radio messages released in the race during hot moments involving the two drivers still leave a little bitterness. Outside, there is rather a form of indifference. They greet each other, exchange a few words, sometimes a few smiles. And that’s all.

Gasly and Ocon, similar trajectories

Time has finally played its part and both have learned to make the most of their antagonism. “In the end, I think what happened to us is positive because it motivated us even more to beat each other.analyzed Gasly. It’s funny to see that we are both in F1 considering where we started, without a lot of money.”

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It is therefore certainly no coincidence that their trajectories have met so many points in common, in difficulty – a sabbatical year for Ocon, a demotion from Red Bull to Toro Rosso for Gasly – as in success, with a memorable victory each , in Monza and Budapest, a few months apart.

After these two defining moments for French motorsport, both had preferred to congratulate each other in private rather than in public. From now on, everything tends to bring them together within the same stable, even if Ocon would support Mick Schumacher’s candidacy, one of his very good friends in the paddock. But for Normandy and France, a derby in F1 would still be great.

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