- The French Formula 1 team, Alpine, presents its new single-seater, the A523, this Thursday in London.
- But with just over two weeks to go before the start of the season, it is above all the new 100% French driver duo with Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly that raises expectations.
- Laurent Rossi, the boss of Alpine has already warned them: "we must not miss".
Two French and Norman drivers, both Grand Prix winners, in a French and Norman team. This is the marriage that Alpine offers us for this 2023 Formula 1 season, with its two drivers Esteban Ocon, and Pierre Gasly. No more confusion with Fernando Alonso, who left for Aston Martin, sold, the Piastri imbroglio, now place to one of the most anticipated duos of the next season in F1.
"Pierre, a French, Norman pilot, who joins us. It's a bit of a coincidence, it's not what guided our choice. The choice was a fast pilot; and Pierre was the fastest of the available drivers, or even unavailable [Alpine had to pay a cheque to poach Gasly from the RedBull fold]. He especially has the characteristics that interest us, he is recognized as a good, even very good developer, "could enjoy Laurent Rossi, the boss of Alpine after the signing of his new driver.
He was able to make his first laps at the wheel of the new A523 on the Silverstone circuit on Monday, before the presentation of the car with great fanfare on Thursday evening in London. "It was fantastic to get back behind the wheel, especially in my new colours with Alpine. Today it was a question of getting a first idea of the car and I felt extremely good during my laps. It was a proud moment to drive it seeing all these faces in the garage, "he was satisfied at the end of the "shakedown".
"The first time he got into a go-kart was in mine"
The story is beautiful, the two drivers have known each other since childhood and have shared this dream of driving in Formula 1 since they were young. "Pierre, the first time he got into a kart, it was in mine near Rouen. We rode together on the same circuits, on the same competitions. It's just crazy to think that this is it, we are going to ride in one of the biggest teams in the world, and in addition in a Norman brand. It's a great story, and I can't wait to start the collaboration," says Esteban Ocon.
But with two drivers of the same age, 27 years old this year, roughly equivalent experience - 111 races for Ocon, 108 for Gasly - and a Grand Prix each to their credit, the comparison between the two drivers could create friction, already appeared in the entourage of the two drivers in the lower categories. Not enough to worry Esteban Ocon, who had to make his place against Fernando Alonso, not known to be one of the easiest teammates, in the last two seasons: "No, I do not apprehend the collaboration with Pierre. We have a great story to create together, we still have a lot of work to do to take this car to the highest level. As in any season in F1, you always have to prove. I'm fitter than ever, and I'll be on top next year so there won't be any worries."
"Don't miss it"
Laurent Rossi, well aware of the situation, warns from the outset: "There will be no hierarchy, not to start the season". If one of the two drivers stands out "clearly" in the standings, then he will be "naturally" favored for the contribution of innovations. With this desire for "strict collaboration" between the sides of the garage, "the trademark" of Alpine, unlike RedBull which favors Max Verstappen to the detriment of Sergio Perez, "a more truly modern management", according to the boss of Alpine. And that Pierre Gasly had to learn the hard way in the 12 races contested with RedBull in 2019, a failure.
The Alpine boss will be able to rely on the experience of the stormy end of the 2022 season between Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso, for better management of his two French drivers in 2023:
It's day-to-day management, it's still high-level athletes. Both know that they are expected at the turn, and that if something happens between them, they will be the ones who will lose more than us. Because everyone will expect it to happen. "It's time to show, too, that they are great adults, capable of pulling the team up and transforming themselves from fast drivers into mature leaders, he says, without hesitating to put them under pressure. They are 26 years old, at the end of their contract they will approach even more than 30 years, we must not miss either. The younger generation pushes very hard and it's dangerous in this kind of situation to be pushed from a team because we haven't shown the maturity to make it progress. I think they are responsible people, both have assured me individually and together that they will give their best."
On the track side, the French team is rather confident about its ability to bring a competitive single-seater to its driver duo, with a new floor to avoid the marsouinage effect that penalized many teams in 2022. In December, "the  car was already faster than that of 2022", thanks in particular to the acquisition of a "dynamic bench that allows the car to be tested in almost real driving situations". Enough to approach this new season with a car "much more ready for the first Grand Prix than in 2022, and potentially already much faster", according to Laurent Rossi. Enough to aim to solidify the 4th place obtained in 2022 in the constructors' standings, "and why not third", with the desire to see at least one of the two drivers on the podium, "the natural progression", for Alpine.
If the arrival of Pierre Gasly is the big change of this offseason, there should not be one on the livery of the next A523. "It's going to change a little bit. We will stay in fairly well-known codes, so there will be no big surprises, "warned the boss. It is more on the track that we would like to see, to be honest.
Jean-Pierre Jabouille, former French Formula 1 driver, has died
Formula 1: "A bit like back-to-school", presentations of new cars increasingly followed
- Formula 1 (F1)
- Esteban Ocon
- Pierre Gasly
- Grand Prix F1