The Alpine F1 Team is wary that the intra-team rivalry between Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon could get out of hand, and team ambassador Alain Prost has said it’s “important that there are no dangerous games.”
Following Daniel Ricciardo signing to join McLaren last campaign, Alpine inked a deal with Fernando Alonso for him to partner Esteban Ocon at the team in 2021.
Ocon was comprehensively outperformed by Ricciardo last season, and many in the paddock believe he will struggle against Alonso, even though the double World Champion had a two-year hiatus from Formula One.
Prost said he believes that some competition between Alonso and Ocon is normal and healthy, but warned that it’s important their rivalry doesn’t grow too big and intense.
“If a driver is destabilised, that’s not normal. What is normal, however, is that a psychological game is set up,” Prost said.
“There is always one driver who gets the upper hand. If that’s one driver one time, and then the other one [another time], it’s balanced and things go well.
“When it’s more regular, as Esteban experienced last year with Daniel [Ricciardo], it’s more complicated.
“So it’s very important that the drivers work well together and that there are no dangerous games.
“It’s going to be a long season, and these COVID years are also complicated to manage. It’s not much fun, locked in bubbles with incredible restrictions.
“The dynamic and atmosphere of a team are extremely important for performance, so you have to be very vigilant to ensure that there is no degradation, first and foremost, among the drivers,” he added.
Although Alpine’s 2021 car looked quite uncompetitive at pre-season testing and the season-opener in Bahrain, Prost believes Alonso’s experience and talent will still count for something and help drive the team forward.
“A driver with such a personality automatically brings something,” Prost said.
“Fernando is very demanding and a perfectionist. He demands a lot. It’s up to us to take it on board.
“But he is also aware that it is probably not this year that he will be able to win races on a regular basis.
“What is certain is that even for a point for tenth place, he will fight body and soul to bring it back.
“But we must not forget that it is always the pair of drivers who make a team progress. We expect a lot from Esteban.
“He now knows the team. We have changed things for him, notably his track engineer. Everything has been done to make him as comfortable as possible,” he concluded.