Esteban Ocon makes unlikely Max Verstappen claim

Esteban Ocon will be partnered with Pierre Gasly for 2023 at Alpine.

Alpine are a team on the up, and while they remain some way off being able to challenge Red Bull and Ferrari for race wins, their ambition in assembling a line-up of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly shows that they are building for the future.

The team have been close to challenging for podiums this season, but reliability issues have prevented Fernando Alonso and Ocon from mounting significant challenges on the top three places at race weekends.

Ocon has now made the bold claim that should Alpine be able to provide him with a competitive car, he believes that he would be able to get the better of Max Verstappen in a title battle.

“I am convinced of that, and I have to be. If you don’t believe in yourself, you are already hopeless in this sport,” he claimed.

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“I have a contract until the end of 2024 and this team is going to do everything it can to close the gap to the top. I have confidence in that and am fully committed.

“I’m not driving here to compete, but I’m growing every weekend. Moreover, the gaps between the teams will become smaller and smaller in the coming years.”

Ocons’s confidence in his ability may hold some weight, as the Frenchman has had the chance to race Verstappen in equal machinery before, beating the Dutchman to the 2014 European Formula 3 Championship.

Since then Verstappen has spent all of his career in the Red Bull system, winning two championships before turning 26, while Ocon has a solo win in F1 after a shock race in Hungary last year with Alpine.

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The pair have had their ups and downs together, most notably when Ocon took Verstappen out of the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix while trying to unlap himself, causing the pair to physically come to blows in the paddock.

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“We get along fine now and have a lot of respect for each other. I wish him all the best,” said Ocon.

“He is simply a super talent now. Max is always and everywhere competitive and has been for years.”

With the recent change in regulations allocating test time for teams based on their finishing position in the championship, Ocon and Alpine will be hoping that they can take advantage of the extra time they will get over the likes of Red Bull and close the gap to the top teams.