Esteban Ocon will give new teammate Fernando Alonso a run for his money early in 2021, according to team reserve driver Sergey Sirotkin.
As Renault becomes Alpine for the new season, F1 legend Alonso is returning to the Enstone based team and Formula 1 to replace Daniel Ricciardo.
Sirotkin told Russia’s Championat that he thinks Frenchman Ocon, 24, will be highly competitive alongside 39-year-old Alonso when the season gets underway.
“Esteban will better understand the team and the car,” said the Russian driver. “I do not expect him to be completely in Alonso’s shadow.
“It seems to me that it will be very difficult for Fernando to immediately be at the level at which Daniel left his car. Fernando will have a lot of expectations for the team but the team will also have high expectations for him to immediately start the season as competitive as possible.
“I think, at least initially, the fight between Alonso and Ocon will be very close,” Sirotkin added.
“Getting on the podium helped Esteban a lot – in Abu Dhabi, it was noticeable that he seemed to have dropped a load from his shoulders, and that’s very important in racing. When you are tight, tense, you lose,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sirotkin says he isn’t yet sure if he will stay at the team this year to be Alpine’s 2021 reserve.
“I know roughly what I want to do in 2021 but I want to see what my interest is,” he said.
“If the F1 option is aligned with my interests and goals, then of course I would like to stay in the paddock and not fall out of the system. But spending so much time without driving is not easy.”
Sirotkin said his 2021 talks are delayed because “the current situation is not very conducive to a quick understanding of what will happen in the new season”.