Ocon’s Alpine F1 departure offers Aussie Doohan chance


Australian driver Jack Doohan is hoping to earn a drive with Alpine’s Formula One team.
Australian driver Jack Doohan is hoping to earn a drive with Alpine’s Formula One team.

Australian driver Jack Doohan could be the big winner from Esteban Ocon’s announcement he will leave Alpine at the end of the season after a troubled start to the year in Formula 1 for him and the French-owned team.

Doohan, who is part of Alpine’s driver academy, will be jostling to move into Ocon’s empty seat for next season.

The Gold Coast-born 21-year-old – the son of motorcycle legend Mick Doohan – won three races as he finished third in the Formula 2 standings in 2023 and is highly rated by the team.

He faces a battle for the seat, with Alpine reported to be trying to tempt current Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz and also making overtures towards Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas.

Mick Schumacher, a reserve driver at Mercedes and currently racing for Alpine in the World Endurance Championship, is also in the frame.

Schumacher and Doohan are closely linked, with the young Australian given his first go-kart by seven-time world F1 champion Michael Schumacher – Mick’s dad.

In turn, the younger Schumacher was named in honour of Doohan’s five-time world 500cc motorbike champion father Mick.

If Doohan wins the race for the Alpine seat for 2024, he could take the Australian F1 contingent to three, with countrymen Oscar Piastri (McLaren) and Daniel Ricciardo (RB) already on the grid.

Ocon, the only driver to win a race for Alpine since it rebranded from Renault at the end of 2020, has scored just one point this season and crashed into teammate Pierre Gasly’s car in the last race, the Monaco Grand Prix.

Esteban Ocon at the Monaco Grand Prix.
Esteban Ocon (pictured) crashed into Alpine teammate Pierre Gasly’s car during the Monaco GP. (AP PHOTO)

The Frenchman faces a five-place grid penalty at the Canadian Grand Prix this week as a result and has complained of receiving abuse on social media since the incident in Monaco.

“We have had some great moments together, some tough moments as well, and I am certainly grateful to everyone at the team for these memorable times,” the 27-year-old Ocon said in a team statement.

His contract expires at the end of the season.

Ocon made his F1 debut in 2016 with Manor and joined the then-Renault team for 2020.

His sole career win came at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2021 for Alpine after a crash in wet conditions took out much of the field.

French teammates Ocon and Gasly have one 10th-placed finish each this year, leaving Alpine ninth of the 10 teams on just two points, ahead of Sauber.

Ocon had said on Friday he will race in Canada following speculation he could be dropped after the crash with Gasly in Monaco.

He also spoke of the toll that abusive comments had taken.

“While I have received many messages of support, I have been deeply saddened by the amount of abuse and negativity I have received online regarding my character, my driving and my career,” he wrote in a statement.

– with Associated Press