Force In­dia’s civil war

The con­flict­ing am­bi­tions of Este­ban Ocon and Ser­gio Perez meant the im­po­si­tion of team or­ders was deemed nec­es­sary to pre­serve fourth in the con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onship

Autosport (UK) - - CONTENTS - By Lawrence Bar­retto

Force In­dia faced the big­gest chal­lenge of its 10-year ex­is­tence when Este­ban Ocon and Ser­gio Perez col­lided not once but twice on the fast run down to Eau Rouge dur­ing this sum­mer’s Bel­gian Grand Prix.

Ocon said Perez “risked my life in there, at 300km/h down to Eau Rouge” be­fore later tweet­ing: “We were hav­ing a good race un­til Perez tried to kill me two times!” Perez de­fended him­self and pointed the fin­ger back at Ocon.

Ten­sions be­tween the duo, part­nered for the first time this sea­son, had been build­ing all year. They had rowed in Canada in June, when Perez re­fused to al­low Ocon through to chal­lenge for a podium po­si­tion, and then col­lided spec­tac­u­larly and lost a prob­a­ble podium in Azer­bai­jan. They clashed again in Hun­gary, with Ocon ad­mit­ting he would be more care­ful when bat­tling Perez wheel-to-wheel in fu­ture. And then they banged wheels again in Bel­gium.

That was the fi­nal straw – Force

In­dia could take it no more. The pair were hauled into a meet­ing with se­nior man­age­ment and told in no un­cer­tain terms that the kind of be­hav­iour shown by them in

Bel­gium would not be tol­er­ated.

It was made clear that the team came first, and that fourth place in the con­struc­tors’ cham­pi­onship was the pri­or­ity, with the as­so­ci­ated prize money cru­cial for the squad’s de­vel­op­ment. Un­til fur­ther no­tice, Ocon and Perez would no longer be free to race each other on track and would be re­quired to abide by team or­ders. Both agreed to com­ply.

“They are both smart guys and they have learned their les­son,” says chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer Ot­mar Szaf­nauer. “Our phi­los­o­phy here is al­ways to max­imise the team po­ten­tial, and we have to do what it takes. Usu­ally, let­ting them race and go as fast as they can max­imises the team po­ten­tial. But when they start crash­ing into each other a lot then it doesn’t max­imise the team po­ten­tial, so we have to do some­thing dif­fer­ent.”

The two driv­ers met at Monza one-to-one to dis­cuss the in­ci­dent and agreed to shake hands and move on. Over the sub­se­quent races their re­la­tion­ship thawed, with Mercedes pro­tege Ocon seek­ing and act­ing on ad­vice from his boss Toto Wolff on how to deal with the sit­u­a­tion, given that Wolff had re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence of a sim­i­lar sce­nario with Lewis Hamil­ton and Nico Ros­berg.

Ocon ad­mits that he and Perez will

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