Jack Doohan in the frame for Esteban Ocon’s full-time drive at Alpine, Bruno Famin, driver market, silly season, contract rumours, Canadian Grand Prix

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Sportem
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Jack Doohan is being prepared to drive in Formula 1 in 2025, with Alpine principal Bruno Famin confirming the Aussie young gun is an option to replace Esteban Ocon.

Doohan has been Alpine’s reserve driver since compatriot Oscar Piastri left the team halfway through 2022. Since then he’s accumulated thousands of kilometres of testing with the French squad, including five grand prix appearances during free practice sessions, the most recent of which was at the weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.

Speaking to Sky Sports in Montreal, Famin confirmed that Doohan was being readied for a chance to step onto the grid next season, albeit as one of several unnamed candidates.

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“We are preparing him,” he said. “He has been testing for a long time. He has quite a heavy testing program, and we’re happy with that. Let’s see how he develops.

“He is one possibility, among others, but he is a possibility for sure.”

Doohan refused to be drawn on his chances to taking the outbound Frenchman’s seat.

“It’s difficult to say anything with Formula 1 is for certain,” he told Sky Sports. “My dream is to be on the grid. My dream is to be in Formula 1.

“I’m here obviously with the team’s a reserve drive preparing myself to be in the car. That is where I want to be. Every time I get to do that — whether it’s the sim, on track, experiencing myself in marketing, with comms — I’m trying to position myself to get that opportunity.

“Nothing is for certain. There are no givens.”

The 21-year-old Queenslander is forgoing competitive action in 2024 to focus on preparing himself for an F1 shot next season.

He finished third in last year’s Formula 2 championship but had a strong case to make that he was the quickest driver in the field, with an undiagnosed cracked chassis badly hampering his results in the first five rounds of the 13-round series.

Instead of recontesting the feeder category for a third year — few drivers who win the championship at their third attempt convert that success into an F1 debut — Doohan has fully committed himself to reserve duties with Alpine on a similar program to that undertaken by Piastri in the first half of 2022.

Alongside 5000 kilometres pounding around European racetracks in previous Alpine machines, he’s also been integral to the team’s efforts to improve its on-track results by performing simulator testing parallel with the full-time drivers during Friday practice sessions.

Famin made special mention of Doohan’s sim work after qualifying in Monaco, where Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon qualified 10th and 11th respectively, well above their usual station near the back of the grid. The team’s website subsequently referred to the Aussie as an “unsung hero”.

Verstappen too good at slick Canadian GP | 03:17

Doohan’s simulator work in particular gives him a head start over any other prospective rookie as well as some other experienced drivers given the Australian not only understands the difficult Alpine car but will also be integral to its improvement through this year and its development for 2025.

Hi collaboration with the team’s engineers would allow him to hit the ground running as a full-time driver in 2025.

“I felt very comfortable coming into today,” he told Sky Sports after his practice outing in Canada, which was truncated by heavy rain. “Previously coming to [free practice] you have nerves — you’re jumping up from Formula 2, so there’s a lot of emotion — whereas coming into today I felt very complete. I felt accepted. There was no fear. There was nothing about feeling out of my comfort zone.

“I really felt that even with the test items we were going to run that I could hop in and have a crack and really do something good. But in the end we didn’t get to do that [because of the weather]. It’s a little bit unfortunate, but that is how it is.

“Luckily I’ve been able to show what I can do in those tests, which are much longer — more time than an hour for the weather window — and we’re able to make it happen.”

Doohan’s promotion would also justify Alpine’s enormous spend on its youth development academy. The program has fostered F1 talents Oscar Piastri and Zhou Guanyu, but neither made their debut for the French team, with the former pinched by McLaren and the latter released to Sauber.

It would come at a time the Renault-owned brand is rumoured to be looking to cut costs, with reports that it’s looking to secure an external power unit supply for 2026 to offload the costly development of its own power plant, for which it has no customers to offset the spend.

Pierre Gasly is also out of contract at the end of the season, but through the Frenchman has reportedly had conversations with other teams in the bottom half of the grid, he’s expected to be retained at Enstone for at least 2025.

Retaining Gasly’s could theoretically bolster Doohan’s chances, making it easier for the struggling team to justify debuting a rookie without jeopardising its recovery from the back of the field.

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