Esteban Ocon says that he is hoping team mate Fernando Alonso will extend his stay at Alpine into the 2023 season.
Alonso returned to Formula 1 at the start of the 2021 season after a two season hiatus competing in the FIA World Endurance Championship, on a contract that will expire at the end of this season.
Alpine has no shortage of talent lined up to take over the seat in the event that Alonso decided to retire, with reigning Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri in pole position for the seat.
The 21-year-old Australian is currently serving as Alpine's reserve driver and is expected to briefly take over from Alonso during first practice for the French Grand Prix next month.
But Alonso is still looking formidably competitive and is showing no signs of easing up as he approached his 41st birthday at the end of July. Ocon for one thinks Alonso should stick around for some time to come.
“Being a teammate of Fernando is great,” Ocon told global sports entertainment platform DAZN in an interview this week. "I think we make a good partnership and I really enjoy working with him.
“When he joined the team, I was told by a lot of people that it would be very difficult,” he admitted. “All these things that are not true at all."
Ocon said it wasn't down to Alonso to 'show he was still deserving of a spot on the Formula 1 grid.
“Fernando doesn’t have to prove anything. If he wants to continue in Formula 1, he will stay,” he insisted. “He’s still motivated and he’s the lion he always was.”
Ocon and Alonso have both made humorous references to the team's 'grand plan' to jump them out of the midfield and put them back at the top, and Ocon nsisted they were still on target.
“I think we are following it,” he said. "We are working to make it work. It takes time. This year, we hope to give more and that we also get closer to the top."
Having tasted his maiden F1 victory in last year's Hungarian Grand Prix, Ocon admitted he was keen to get back to the top step of the podium as soon as possible - but admitted that wasn't likely to be very soon.
“I see myself on the podium this year," he said. With a win, it would be a great season. We want to win again.
"[But] if we are realistic we are not in that position [for 2022]," he acknowledged. “If we get podiums, for us it is like winning. We are making progress in achieving it, and that is the important thing.
"We can do it. I believe in this project, and that is why that I signed for several years to stay with the team.”
The decision about who will race alongside Ocon at Alpine next year rests in the hands of newly appointed team principal Otmar Szafnauer, who told the media in Canada that any selection was still some way down the road.
"Let’s talk about that when we get closer to the [summer] break and that thing that I think you all call the silly season," he said, while suggesting that he expected Piastri to be on the grid in 2023 in some capacity.
“I think [Fernando] has taken a step up, he’s still a formidable competitor,” he commented. “He does a very good job and he gets the speed very, very quickly ... I’m very impressed at how quickly.
"He’s doing a great job for us," he concluded.