While Gasly obliged and handed ninth back to the sister car, the ex-Red Bull driver vented his frustration afterwards, claiming the matter “wasn’t discussed before the race.”
Ocon, however, insists the rules of engagement have always been the same at Alpine since he returned to the Enstone team as a full-time race driver back in 2020.
“I’ve been with this team for four years now, I think. And the rule has always been this one, with Daniel [Ricciardo], with Fernando, that if one driver swaps positions, so in that instance, I gave the position to Pierre, he needs to get the position in front, which was Fernando, in order to be keeping that position,” Ocon explained. “Otherwise you just give the place back to your teammate.”
“That’s always what we’ve done. If I’m on the other side, I will obviously do the same. But I always prefer a fight on track. I’m more of an old-school guy, and I would never ask for the position to be switched. But I understand also the team’s point of view, which was trying to get more places for Fernando and to get more points, but unfortunately yeah, we didn’t get that.
“I think we maximized the potential, as I said. There wasn’t much more on the table today.”
Gasly underlined that the huge tyre offset between the pair meant that he was going to overtake Ocon regardless of the team intervening to allow the former through.
But Ocon has dismissed that the respective speed of the cars mattered at that moment.
“It’s not really relevant, because you need to fight your place on track,” he said. “You can be as fast as you want, if you don’t make the move, then you never know who is going to be in front. And before that, I was in front.
“Obviously we will discuss that to see what we could have done better, clearly as a team.
“If you look at Brazil in 2021, that was the same with Fernando. If you look at Sochi with Daniel, that was the same, I gave the position to Daniel the other way which I did to Fernando in Brazil.
“It’s always been a team order that way that I’ve known, and I wasn’t surprised that this was the case.”
Ocon’s prospects for the race appeared bleak at the end of the opening lap after getting caught up in an incident on the run to Turn 1 with Alex Albon and Valtteri Bottas.
Although the other two drivers involved were eventually forced into retirement, Ocon was able to continue and fought back to ninth.
Ocon admits he “thought it was race over” when he slipped to the rear of the field.
“I got that puncture, I saw all these cars in a sandwich on the side, and there was not much anybody could have done really,” he continued. “It’s a bit of an unfortunate incident.
“I managed to get back quite slowly, with the Safety Car, which helped things. I boxed and went to the back of the grid, and slowly with a one-stop Hard-Hard, we managed to do a very decent race and optimize our result.
“We ended up with both cars in the points which is a good reward after a tricky week where we didn’t have the pace that we hoped for.
Ocon’s cause was aided by a race of attrition that saw only 15 cars running by the time the chequered flag fell at the end of 53 laps.
Questioned on why he suspects the retirement rate was higher at Suzuka compared to other circuits on the calendar, Ocon replied: “The start didn’t help. Sergio [Perez] and Kevin [Magnussen], that didn’t help either. That was quite close. On my side as well, fighting there.
“Yeah. I mean, it’s pretty strange, because it’s not the most crazy circuit. You would expect more DNFs in a track like Baku, for example. Warm and tricky today.”