Teammate Tale of the Tape - Alonso vs Ocon at Alpine
Can Alpine carry the 2020 Renault momentum and take one step closer to the top of Formula 1?
As far as F1 re-brands go, Alpine has had an odd start to their Formula 1 tenure. The French team enter the 2021 season off the back of a successful final season known as Renault. Now many teams would be damaged by the departure of the driver with the caliber of Daniel Ricciardo, but Alpine is in a rare position where they've actually upgraded their vacant seat. Two time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso makes his much anticipated return to the sport to partner young Frenchman Esteban Ocon. Lost in the shuffle of a dramatic last couple of months in the F1 world, the return of one of F1's greats has flown under the radar but it's a big storyline heading into the 2021 season. Entering as a new brand, Alpine will be looking to build off of the successes of Renault's past and forge ahead as one of F1's top teams. With a driver lineup of youth vs experience, how will Alonso and Ocon get along together and how will this partnership work out? This is a very interesting dynamic so let's take a dive into the numbers of our Teammate Tale of the Tape at Alpine.
Teammate Tale of the Tape - Alonso vs Ocon
If it wasn't hard enough already to try and keep up with Daniel Ricciardo, Esteban Ocon has the immense task of going up against one of the toughest drivers in F1 history. Although he's been out of the sport for three years, Alonso is still one of the best drivers in the world and he's eager to get back to the top of F1 after numerous difficult years with McLaren. The good news here for Alpine is that Ocon steadily closed the gap to Ricciardo in 2020 and culminated his improvements with his maiden podium back at the Sahkir GP. He'll have to find a whole new level of performance however as Alonso has swept away young drivers in the past. There is quite the gap between the two in almost every category so let's look at the Tale of the Tape numbers.
In what is the largest age gap between two teammates this season, Alonso has 15 years on Ocon at the young age of 39 years old. Alonso can take solace in the fact that he is not the oldest driver on the grid this year, Kimi Raikkonen beats him by two years on that record. The biggest aspect of this partnership is the difference in experience level. Ocon has done 244 less races than Alonso and he is only entering his 4th season of F1 while Fernando is embarking on his 18th season. As mentioned before, Ocon achieved his first career podium last season while Alonso's last and 97th podium came back at the 2014 Hungarian Grand Prix. If Alpine can replicate the car performance of last season, Alonso could very well achieve his 100th career podium in 2021. I'm sure Alonso will look to add to his 32 Grand Prix victories as well in the near future but the final two stats is what Ocon will be looking out for at every weekend. Alonso has out-qualified his F1 teammates 76% of the time in his career while out racing them just below that at 71%. Those statistics have led him to a 14-3 record against teammates of the past including Jenson Button, Felipe Massa, and Jarno Trulli just to name a few. Ocon on the other hand has yet to beat his teammate in three full seasons of F1 competition so he'll have his work cut out for him this year. He's certainly shown in the past that he's not willing to back down from a fight from his veteran teammates but will that be enough for him to succeed at Alpine against Alonso? Even though they haven't hit the track yet, we already have a glimpse into this battle thanks to the Young Driver Test at the end of 2020. With 105 laps in the R.S.20, Alonso posted his fastest time of a 1:36.333. Compare that to Ocon's best qualifying lap in Abu Dhabi which was a 1:36.359. Now of course different conditions and programs have to be taken into account but at the end of the day the stopwatch doesn't lie and Fernando is faster than you! I'd say after a couple of years away from F1, the old boy has still got it. To see what more Alonso and Ocon bring to Alpine, let's break down their induvial driver statistics.
#14 Fernando Alonso
It seems like they're aren't as many F1 fans out there who are as excited for the return of Fernando Alonso as I am. Love him or hate him, he adds massive value to any team or grid that he joins so having him back in the sport is a major boost. The team he joins might be called Alpine, but make no mistake about it, Alonso is picking up from where he left off in his championship Renault days. "There is this atmosphere at Enstone and in this team that everything is so simple, so logical with everything that they do in the team that you know, I'm very comfortable here, said Alonso. A lot of the people that I worked with today... were there in my days, so when you know the faces and you know the team, everything becomes a little bit easier." In many ways, Alonso walks back into Enstone after 11 years and continues his role as team leader and number one which must put a lot of pressure on his teammate Ocon. That status is absolutely deserved however as the 39 year old's resume is one of the best in the history of F1. Alonso is ranked 6th all time in race victories and also has 22 pole positions to his name. His averaged start position has been top 8 all of his career while finishing on average in the top 5. Alonso's also managed to finish in the points in 65% of his career races and has the third most Grand Prix starts in F1 history, a record that he could very well own in the next few seasons. The three years that he took off from F1 has recharged his mental and physical batteries and he's coming back to the sport with 100% commitment to winning again. Since his return was announced, Alonso has been pushing the team to give him time in old Renault F1 cars and the current one to try and get back up to speed with the demands of F1 racing. He's been totally hands on with team meetings and future developments beyond this 2021 season. It's been a while since I've seen him this hungry and motivated, it's wonder Renault's former team boss called Fernando a 'hungry shark'. I was quite concerned with the recent unfortunate events surrounding Alonso's accident, but thankfully it looks as though it was minor and he'll be ready for pre-season testing. If Alpine carries the performance over to this season, I cannot wait to see Alonso mixing it up with competitive mid-field and maybe even some of the big teams.
#31 - Esteban Ocon
Esteban Ocon's F1 career is still very much in its developing years but he's already been through quite the ride so far. After strong debut seasons with Force India, he was forced to sit out one year and his F1 future at times looked up in the air. Luckily, he's been able to move on and find a new home with his native French outfit Alpine. In Ocon's 67 Grand Prix starts, he's on average qualified in 11th place while managing to finish in the top ten on average in the race. He's reached Q3 in almost half of his appearances and has a positive finishing record in the points at 57%. His best finish in the championship actually came back in 2018 with Force India when he finished 8th in the standings. He'll have his work cut out for him this season but Ocon can try and build off of the positive end to his 2020 campaign. He managed to reduce his qualifying gap to Ricciardo by the end of the season to just three tenths but that is still a decent gap in F1 terms. The toughest task for Ocon will be to try and not get demoralized by the aura of Fernando Alonso. He'll need to get off to a strong start right away and get on top of Alonso early in the season while Fernando is still trying to find his best form. Ocon is still a young talented driver who can build himself a good future with a team like Alpine but he is a driver that I think has some of the most pressure on his shoulders this season. It wasn't that long ago that Ocon was being tipped to join Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes and now he's fallen down the pecking order to younger drivers like George Russell. Now he's got to deal with a former world championship teammate and possibly other drivers who are gunning for his seat. Ocon has shown in the past that he's not afraid to mix it up with his teammates but somehow I think that might not be the best strategy against a guy like Alonso.
What can we expect from Alpine?
As far are re-brands go, Alpine's has been quite odd in my opinion. Unlike they're competitors over at Aston Martin, I think Alpine has missed the opportunity to really build the hype of a new era and new driver joining the team. They had a winter livery launch a few months ago which confused some and then they had managerial drama with Alpine announcing Cyril Abiteboul's departure. We'll have to wait and see whether Abiteboul's departure has a positive or negative impact on the team but it sure came as a surprise to the F1 world and the likes of Esteban Ocon. One less headache Alpine will have to deal with in 2021 is supplying engines to customer teams. Alpine will be the only team powered by the Renault E-Tech Hybrid power unit so all the focus will be on themselves and not the issues of other teams powered by them. As we've talked about it previous videos, the mid-field this year will be even more competitive than 2020 with each team seeming to be improving in an upwards direction. What I will be looking for at Alpine in 2021 is how much resources actually get put into this current season vs the big change of 2022. We've already heard Fernando Alonso pushing the team to start 2022 work right away and if Alpine want to position themselves as a top team when the new era hits, that is probably the smart way to go. As for Alonso and Ocon, I have to say I unfortunately don't see this going well for the young Frenchman. I wish him the best but Alonso is just so tough to go up against and I don't think he's lost any quality with his age. That being said, I'm very excited to see the new Alpine car on track in the hands of these two drivers and I hope they can contribute to a great mid-field battle this season.