Alpine CEO backtracks on controversial Esteban Ocon comment

Esteban Ocon is currently in the middle of a long-term contract at Alpine, with the Frenchman set to stay with the side until at least the end of 2024.

Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi has seemingly backtracked on a recent comment he made regarding Esteban Ocon, who he labelled as an “excellent second driver”.

The Enstone-based team’s CEO made a bizarre comment about his French driver recently, who he described as being “not guaranteed World Champion material… so at the very least I have myself an excellent second driver.”

Ocon has actually performed incredibly well since returning to Formula 1 in 2020 at Enstone, with the Frenchman having delivered somewhat consistent results for the team last year in particular.

The 26-year-old also dealt with former team-mate Fernando Alonso particularly well, with the Spaniard having caused a few issues towards the end of their time together.

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As a result of his impressive results, Alpine rewarded Ocon with a long-term contract, with the Frenchman set to remain at Enstone until at least the end of next season.

He was also responsible for claiming Alpine’s first win since switching names from Renault, with Ocon having been victorious at the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix.

Based on all of this, Rossi’s comments left some slightly confused, given how important Ocon has been in boosting the side up the order.

Rossi explained his remarks recently and explained that it had been misinterpreted, with him meaning that Ocon would be an “excellent second driver” at the likes of Mercedes or Red Bull.

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“Because Esteban, what was remarkable about this boy is that he has never had an easy linear path,” Rossi told F1’s ‘Beyond the Grid’ podcast.

“Every single year almost he was told ‘that’s it, that’s over, that’s the end of the road with us and you need to find another gig next year’. Which is super difficult, especially in a career like that, you need a bit of a runway, right?

“You need to feel comfortable about the fact that you’re going to drive for a while and you actually can make this job your job for real, not just a hobby, and it’s never ever been easy for him like really.

“And so irrespective of that, I also knew that this boy has been successful in all categories, has been racing against Max [Verstappen], Charles [Leclerc], everyone that is top driver today, and he has beat them over time in the past.

“So I’m like, ‘yeah, some potential, let’s put him in a more comfortable zone’, not fully comfortable because he needs to be on his toes all the time, that’s important, but let us see what he has in store if we give him the environment, like a bit of like peace of mind.

“And so that’s why we decided to bet on him for three years, and give him a bit of a runway also, because back then, to be honest, nobody wanted to come to Alpine, let’s be clear, so it was as good a driver as we could get.

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“And I’ve always said Esteban is at very least a very good second driver.

“Everyone interpreted that in different ways, but when I say that, it’s like, there’s no one and two at Ferrari, but I’m pretty sure a lot of people think there’s a two! There’s no one and two at Mercedes, and that’s hard to figure out who’s the two there to be honest.

“And I think Esteban would be one of those two, whichever person you would pick in both of those teams, so that’s what I meant by that,” Rossi explained.