Esteban Ocon has refuted the notion that Alpine team-mate Fernando Alonso is a hard man to work with, revealing that he has only had pleasant exchanges with the Spaniard.
Alonso returned to Formula 1 at the beginning of 2021 after two seasons out of the sport following his McLaren departure in 2018.
The 40-year-old was often vocal during his second spell with the Woking-based team about the performance of the Honda and Renault power units, and he fell out with then-team boss Ron Dennis during his first season with McLaren in 2007.
He partnered the Frenchman at Alpine in 2021, and Ocon has described him as a “hell of a racer” but denies he is difficult to work with.
“A lot of people said Fernando was very difficult to work with, that he had a reputation for breaking team-mates and all that,” he said, as quoted by Racer.
“I wanted to see it from my eyes, I wanted to see if what people were saying was true and in the end it wasn’t. We’ve just had a fantastic collaboration all together.
“He’s a hell of a racer – he’s extremely extremely fast, for sure the fastest team-mate I’ve had for a while. I was very happy to work alongside him.”
Ocon claimed victory in the bizarre and frenetic Hungarian Grand Prix last season, and Alonso’s defence against Mercedes’ Sir Lewis Hamilton proved a major factor in the Enstone-based team’s first win since 2013.
At the time, the 25-year-old labelled his team-mate as “absolutely incredible” and sporting director Alan Permane recognised that the Spaniard’s efforts at keeping the seven-time champion behind were “crucial” to the Frenchman’s maiden F1 win.
Further, the Evreux-born racer affirms that he has absorbed plenty of information from the double world champion on the track.
“I’ve learned a lot alongside him. Just the way Fernando thinks out of the box, where some other drivers would not think about or even the team would not think about stuff,” he said.
“It’s pushing the limit to strategies or how we can optimise everything – in that regard I’ve definitely learned a lot.
“Also racecraft, I think I’ve picked up quite a lot of things from him – looking at his first laps, which is something I’ve always been doing, always been following what he has been doing. And towards the end of the year I was only gaining positions not losing any, and I was doing great first laps.
“It is a privilege to be working alongside a legend like him and I put him as a reference for sure in the beginning of the year.”
The pair drew 11-11 in the qualifying battle last year, and Alonso claimed a podium finish of his own in Qatar.
Ocon is delighted that he was able to compete with a driver of Alonso’s calibre last season.
“I was happy to see that I was matching him in terms of pace and we were pushing each other and in the end that gave the team the maximum we could have, basically, and were extracting the maximum out of the package most of the time, so that was good.”
Alpine ended the Constructors’ Championship fifth in 2021, and Ocon and Alonso have been retained ahead for the 2022 season.
The French team are scheduled to unveil their new challenger on 22 February.