Szafnauer: Gasly and Ocon both apologised for Australia clash

Jaden Diaz

Alpine team principal Otmar Szafnauer has given his reaction to the contact between Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon at the end of a hectic Australian GP.

Before this dramatic collision, Gasly and Ocon were on course to secure crucial points for the team at Albert Park.

Gasly’s pace was especially impressive in Melbourne, as the 27-year-old managed to stay within DRS range of Carlos Sainz and keep Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll at bay for most of the race.

However, a mistake from Alpine’s new driver forced him onto the gravel – before rejoining the track and pushing Esteban Ocon into the wall.

There was plenty of speculation about Alpine’s driver lineup over the winter, given their contested history in junior categories.

Unfortunately for Otmar Szafnauer – who has dismissed the relevance of Ocon and Gasly’s historic rivalry – it only took three rounds for his drivers to collide and cost the French squad crucial points in the Constructors’ standings.

Speaking after the race, Alpine’s team principal looked to minimise the noise surrounding the incident:

“They each apologised, so they each thought they played a role in it,” motorsportweek quoted Szafnauer as saying.

“It was just chaos out there. Had Pierre not gone wide in turn 1… then I think he would have been further up the road. 

“Esteban, at the time, just followed Tsunoda through on the racing line, and Pierre didn’t see him and came over to the racing line and just hit him. 

“Which is unfortunate, as I think we were scoring some points and a well-deserved fifth place for Pierre on merit with good pace.

“The right thing to do is to learn from it. There’s so much chaos there, and you’ve got to make quick decisions.”

Whilst the clash between Alpine’s drivers has captured most of the headlines, the Enstone team can take encouragement from their performance in Australia.

Although DRS definitely played its role in Gasly staying with the front-runners for so long, it is impressive that the A523 was capable of keeping within touching distance of Sainz for so long.

Despite the game of cat and mouse between Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, the fact Pierre Gasly was able to brake Lance Stroll’s DRS just before the final red flag indicated the Frenchman had legitimate pace.

It is still too early to make any conclusions about Alpine’s potential for the 2023 season, but the A523 is definitely within touching distance of the leaders.

Still, irrespective of this encouraging pace, there is no denying that Alpine lost crucial points in the third round of the season.

Alpine might be the fifth-fastest team so far, but allowing McLaren to overtake them in the standings (before their scheduled Baku update package) could prove costly.

Otmar Szafnauer, whilst keeping a calm and professional demeanour in public, will be sure to warn his drivers that repeating a similar collision in the future will not be permitted.