Published on 1 Jul 2021 7:16 pm (UK Time)
Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso. Two drivers at very different stages of their career. Esteban Ocon, at the start of his career, trying to establish himself in Formula One. Fernando Alonso, a veteran, a former two-time world champion, looking for a final shot at glory before he calls time on his career.
The two drivers will be driving for Alpine GP in the 2021 season. For Alonso, the 2021 season is all about getting back into the groove in Formula One after a sabbatical of 2 years. It would be a year where he assesses both where he stands in terms of competitiveness on the grid and where Alpine GP would stand just before the new regulations are in place in the 2022 season.
For Ocon however, this season is all about results, results that he needs to show at the earliest to deliver on the trust that the team has in him. After an indifferent season in 2020 where Ocon was pretty much dominated by Daniel Ricciardo, Ocon needs to beat Alonso if he has to hold on to his seat at Alpine.
Fernando Alonso and the question of legacy
After almost a decade of unsuccessful championship campaigns, Alonso always had an unfinished business with Formula One. If we have to talk about talent and the level of performance then the 2 World Championships almost sound like an underachievement. The only attraction that brought him back to the sport was the 2022 regulations change and the fact that they will bring the drivers back into contention.
Budget cuts should converge the grid and bring the cars closer and for Fernando Alonso, a driver who has been hampered primarily by a lack of competitive cars at his disposal throughout his career, this could be the best possible arrangement.
Fernando Alonso, in his prime, would have backed himself to compete with a car 2-3 tenths down on his competition. The question though is whether Alonso at 39 years of age would be in his prime? And whether he can replicate the form that made him one of the best drivers on the grid?
At the same time, Alonso is a different kind of competitive beast. He would not want his return to Formula One to mirror the return of Michael Schumacher, who was beaten by his teammate in all three seasons on his return to Formula One.
The least that he would want to do is beat his teammate. A teammate that, in this case, is a young Esteban Ocon in his second season with the team. Alonso, in his prime, has chewed up and spat out multiple up-and-comers as his teammates. Nelson Piquet Jr., Romain Grosjean, and Stoffel Vandoorne to name a few. Although not his primary focus on his return, the least Alonso would be looking to do is add Ocon to that list.
Would Alonso in his prime be able to do that to Ocon? Probably yes, but would Alonso at 39 years old, coming off a two-year sabbatical be able to do it? And what if Alonso isn’t able to beat Ocon and is slower than the young Frenchman? What impact would it have on Alonso’s legacy? More than that, the kind of a beast Alonso is, would he take such a beating lying down? It would be interesting to see what course the relationship would take should that happen.
Esteban Ocon and his career at stake
Esteban Ocon made a return to Formula One last year with Renault. By all accounts, it was not the Ideal return for the Frenchman as he was utterly dominated by his teammate Daniel Ricciardo. Although he was able to close the gap to Ricciardo throughout the season, it was still quite clear who was the faster of the two Renault drivers. Coming into 2021, Ocon is lining up next to Fernando Alonso. A driver who is famous for ending his teammate’s careers through utter dominating and it would be his toughest test to date.
Ocon, when he came to Formula One was touted to be a future star. He was part of the Mercedes Driver academy and the famed seat at the Silver Arrows was a possibility. Since then, Ocon has left the Mercedes Academy to join Renault and hasn’t impressed as much as was expected of him.
With 2021 expected to be the second of his 2-year contract with Renault, Ocon would need to beat Alonso if he has to extend his contract and prolong his career in Formula One, especially because Pierre Gasly, another French driver has been putting together impressive performances consistently and could be staking a claim at Ocon’s seat for the 2022 season.
Ocon did show considerable improvement in the latter half of the season and his progress was evident. The question though would be how the young Frenchman manages to keep politics at bay, especially when Alonso is in the second car. In a season that could save or ruin his career, Ocon would be desperate to beat Alonso to establish himself as one of the top drivers on the grid.
Esteban Ocon vs Fernando Alonso: Potential Fireworks?
Esteban Ocon has shown in the past that he doesn’t bow down from a challenge. His rivalry with Sergio Perez was intense and it led to the two teammates clashing on the track. Alonso on the other hand does not like to lose, especially to someone driving the same car as him. He would not take it lightly if Ocon can match or beat him. Will we witness the return of Alonso of 2007? It would be interesting to see what happens but it won’t be a surprise if there are fireworks at Alpine in 2021.
In a battle of youth vs experience and career vs legacy, it would be interesting to see who comes out on top. Will it be Ocon or will it be Alonso? If you ask me about the number of uncertainties going into the season, it’s hard to pick a winner but one thing is certain, it’s going to be interesting to see the old Spaniard back on the grid.