F1 | Otmar Szafnauer: "Hopefully the friendship will rekindle" between Ocon and Gasly
Otmar Szafnauer talked about Gasly´s arrival to Alpine, his relationship with Ocon and why the French driver is a better option than Alonso or Piastri.
On the first day of the summer break, Fernando Alonso announced he was moving to Aston Martin to replace Sebastian Vettel in 2023. This movement left Alpine with an empty seat initially refused by Oscar Piastri.
After weeks of mystery, last weekend Alpine announced Pierre Gasly was their new driver for the upcoming season. The French driver is going to team up with fellow countryman Esteban Ocon.
This decision sparked plenty of comments as regards the relationship between the future teammates who have been friends in their childhood but grew apart when they started competing against each other.
Otmar Szafnauer said in last weekend's press conference that Gasly´s arrival was not a surprise for Ocon who was properly informed by the team.
“We made an informed decision... that means talking to the entire team, including Esteban beforehand, to make sure that if we did make a decision, it's a team sport and we have to be able to work together and optimise.”
Szafnauer says both drivers were very supportive from the professional perspective and hopes their friendship will rekindle in Alpine.
“Esteban was very supportive, Pierre as well. They're professionals. And they have no issue working together. Hopefully the friendship will rekindle but from a professional perspective, they're both very happy to work with each other.
“They've known each other for a very long time, and they've raced together. They're about equally experienced, they're both very fast, both ambitious, so that I think they'll work well together.”
Speed, youth and experience were the three main qualities Alpine wanted in their future driver and according to Szafnauer, 26-year-old Gasly has them all.
“As everyone knows, we had a seat available after or around the summer break. We started looking around as to who would be a best fit, and we had some criteria to work to. The three things we wanted were naturally speed, a fast driver, one with experience, and also youth at the same time. And adding all three things up there aren't many people that have all that and Pierre definitely does.
Being shortlisted as on of Alonso´s possible replacements. Gasly emerged as the best fit from the current F1 grid.
“We thought he was a great fit for us. So, we put him on our shortlist, and then went about getting it done. When it looked like Oscar wasn't 100 percent certain with some of the contractual issues that we had then we started working on a shortlist of who else it could be, and Pierre was on it. And one of the reasons was that he was going to become available and in ’24, not for ’23. And then it became quite evident to us that, like I said before, he's got youth, experience and speed, and that's difficult to say for a lot of drivers that are still within F1, even.”
Szafnauer believes Gasly is even a better fit than Alonso or Piastri considering youth experience and speed.
“Even the other two that you mentioned didn't have those things. So, we're fortunate to secure Pierre, and look forward to working with him."
According to the Alpine boss, Franz Tost, Helmut Marko and Christian Horner were very correct in working out Gasly´s release from the Red Bull sphere.
"Well, there are a few elements of all that, and but what I can tell you is that it was really straightforward working with Franz, Helmut and Christian in securing Pierre's future. They were very correct and true to their word and did exactly what they said they were going to do, and it was a pleasure working with them.”