Everything you need to know about Ocon’s Alpine F1 split

Alpine's announcement that it will part ways with driver Esteban Ocon at the end of 2024 is a big deal despite confirming something that was already widely expected.

With only a third of the season having passed, and no sign of what Ocon will do next, Alpine and its driver have decided to publicly and officially announce Ocon's departure from the team.

This was something that was certain anyway. But why was it handled this way, and what happens next for a beleaguered team and a free agent who only a few days ago felt the need to publicly defend their reputation?

Is this about Monaco?

The obvious question many will ask is whether this is linked to the consequences that appeared to be threatened by team principal Bruno Famine after Ocon attempted to overtake and clashed with teammate Pierre Gasly on the first lap of the Monaco Grand Prix.

In simple terms, it's not. This is certainly not Ocon's “punishment” for bumping into his teammate. It has been known for some time that it is increasingly unlikely that Alpine will retain Ocon beyond the end of his contract anyway.

But what happened in Monaco certainly didn't help. This must have eliminated any slim chance of keeping Ocon.

Gasly is going nowhere as a relatively new signing with some sort of contractual option for 2025, and the combustible nature of this pairing of drivers means it always has an expiry date. The ideal 'team player' mission would have made the Ocon/Gasly combination at least viable, but what happened only confirmed it was unsustainable.

So, perhaps the Monaco incident is best seen as fully reinforcing the view – on both sides, Alpine and Ocon – that there is no reason to stick together after 2024.

With the likely scenario now a certain outcome, Alpine wants to signal publicly that it has an open seat As the driver market enters a feverish final phase and Ocon is keen to stake his future elsewhere, communicating the situation openly is a useful exercise in transparency.

By emphasizing the job both teams have to do until the end of the season, it also helps put to rest speculation that Ocon could be on the bench for the Monaco match.

Who will replace Ocon?

Alpine will only start talking to potential replacements from Monday, June 3. She has had lines of communication with other drivers and their representatives for several weeks already.

The fact that Ocon was out of contract meant that Alpine had long been thinking about who would be the best option for Gasly's teammate in 2025. Gasly has not been officially locked in for next season but that should be considered just a formality at this stage.

Now that Ocon is 100% out of the picture, the options are clearer. The unofficial longlist will contain “every driver out of contract” but Alpine, being a works team, hopes to attract drivers of a higher caliber than those simply looking for any port in the storm.

This means the usual suspects can be taken into consideration – Carlos Sainz (who prefers Audi-backed Sauber or Williams), Valtteri Bottas and Yuki Tsunoda. They all had conversations of some sort, or at least their representatives did.

There is also Alpine reserve driver Jack Doohan, an academy member who has recently started a special testing programme [above] With the team and is considered a legitimate option for a race seat.

External contenders could be Zhou Guanyu, or former F1 driver and Alpine World Endurance Championship racer Mick Schumacher, but there seems little chance of an actual race seat.

What will Ocon do?

It is unusual to see this type of advertisement as independent news. Usually, the year-end split is confirmed when the driver in question is about to announce his new team.

Coordinated press releases are often the order of the day. But there is no follow-up news from Ocon about his future – so this will presumably happen without the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix winner having a new deal in his pocket elsewhere.

“I will announce my plans soon,” says Ocon, so perhaps there will be something more concrete. Or maybe this is just a reflection of the driver market finally ending.

Like Alpine, Ocon is not sitting around waiting for this to become official. There have been talks with Haas and Williams, and he has often been linked with Sauber/Audi – although as a back-up option rather than an outright priority.

It seems very likely that Ocon will remain on the Formula 1 grid somewhere, although like a few drivers aiming to grab one of the final places, exactly who will end up driving remains a mystery.

Was this inevitable?

Monaco was not an isolated incident and Alpine's angry reaction in the aftermath was not an overreaction to a single clash, nor was the split with Ocon a direct result of it.

It represents that petty individual squabbles cannot be put aside for the good of the team. The only way to solve this problem in the long term is for one driver to leave, ending the pairing with his teammate that should never have been allowed in the first place.

Alpine took a big risk by pairing Ocon and Gasly given the longstanding tensions between them. They go back to their karting days and were friends at first.

That soon changed, though the full details of their downfall are lost in the mists of time. It is known that it was not only on-track incidents that fueled their downfall, but also things that happened off-track.

Alpine was well aware of this when it signed Gasly for 2023 to partner Ocon, bringing together two drivers with a complex backstory – and in Ocon, one of whom had a track record of adversarial relationships with his team-mates, as demonstrated alongside Sergio Perez in Force India and with Gasly's predecessor in the Alps, Fernando Alonso.

It took Gasly and Ocon all three races to collide with each other, in the final restart of the 2023 Australian Grand Prix. What was surprising was that they generally avoided a repeat of such hotspots in 2023.

However, they were waging an intense war for supremacy as both were determined to establish themselves as the leader of the Alpine team. Gasly won the second half of 2023 while Ocon reasserted himself in early 2024 at the height of the team's competitive misery.

More cracks started to appear and now it's finally boiling over. Parting was inevitable – the only question now is what will happen during the rest of 2024.

Ocon will leave, and sooner or later he will have an agreement to race elsewhere. If he and Gasly were able to cause trouble on the track when they were driving for the same team, who knows what will happen now that neither of them will be trying to keep their seat.


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