Pierre Gasly says he doesn’t “really understand” the team order that Alpine imposed on him during the final lap of the Japanese Grand Prix.
Gasly had started ahead of his team-mate on the grid and Esteban Ocon was caught up in the contact that ensued on the opening lap, picking up a puncture.
However, Ocon was manoeuvred in front of Gasly when he made an earlier pit stop. The team then instructed Ocon to allow Gasly through to enable the latter to chase down the cars ahead on fresher tyres.
Having failed to catch up to the back of Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin for eighth place, Gasly was then told by his race engineer: “Okay mate, we’ve got Esteban 2.4 behind, instruction from the pit wall coming, er, can we swap back around?”
Gasly responded angrily: “Wait, what the f***, [are] you kidding me, why you saying like, I was faster, I’m on fresher rubber if he would not have passed me I’d have overtaken him anyway
“Are you serious? You’re being serious? I started in front, I was in front the whole race, you let him undercut me,” he added.
His race engineer, Karel Loos, repeated the instruction, telling Gasly to invert the cars at Turn 16. Although the Frenchman abided by the order, he branded it a “complete joke.”
Gasly admits he was confused by the situation as it “wasn’t discussed before the race” and he was never told that the team would switch the positions back.
“I was told that Esteban decided to undercut me with the strategy, to favour him, well obviously, it would obviously undercut me, who was the leading car, and they would let me pass so we don’t lose time,” he said.
“It was never said that we’d need to invert again the positions, because I started ahead and I was always in front.
“As a team, 10th and ninth or ninth and 10th is the same. But it was definitely not something I expected and not something I really understand as well, because I was the leading car. We’ll talk, yeah.”
Gasly, who was seen gesticulating wildly during the cooldown lap, asserts he would have utilised his newer rubber to overtake Ocon regardless of the team’s intervention.
However, the ex-Red Bull driver insists he would discuss the matter behind closed doors and remains convinced that Ocon will still abide by any team orders in the future.
“No, it was clear that we have a strategy they had planned, at some point Esteban would undercut me,” he explained when asked about the lack of clarity.
“But my race was faster. And I would have to pass him back, I would have overtook him anyway on the race track because I had fresher tyre. And this was part of the strategy it was telling us before the race.
“Until then, it was all similar, it was just on the last lap it was… but anyway. It’s something we’ll talk together, we’ll explain, and I’m sure next time, the other way around, Esteban will play it fair.”
Despite reiterating that he “put the team in front of myself”, Gasly concedes that Alpine achieved the maximum result at Suzuka.
“I think we did a good strategy. As a team, we did the best job we could with both cars,” he acknowledged.
“In the end, I don’t understand the team’s decision, but I respected it. I let Esteban past. But in the end, it’s three points for the team, and that’s what we have to look at.”
Following an inconsistent campaign for the Enstone squad, Gasly has drawn encouragement from Alpine’s latest showing, believing the side is closing on Aston Martin.
Pressed on whether the race provided a gauge of where Alpine is at the moment amid several retirements, Gasly considered: “I think we know at the minute, we are like, almost at the level of Aston [Martin]. We came close, we came short. I think I was two seconds behind Fernando on the last lap.
“Yeah. I think that’s where we are, obviously quite a big step from the cars ahead, but we’ll work in that direction. There are going to be some more opportunities in the coming races.”