Sergio Perez defends his decision to fight off his teammate in Canada, saying that Force India needs a clearer overtaking procedure.
Ah, teammates. Drivers love to hate them. On the one hand, both are employed by the same outfit and should desire the best possible outcome for their employer. On the other, both are professional drivers–who want nothing else but to see themselves stand upon the highest step on the podium. It’s a difficult line to walk, and one that can result in tested relationships when things heat up.
The most recent pair to feel the temperature rise are the Force India duo of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon. During the Canadian Grand Prix, Perez openly disobeyed team orders to let Ocon overtake him for a stab at Red Bull’s third-place sitter Daniel Ricciardo. Ocon was stuck behind Perez, but on a set of fresher tires as the fourth-place Mexican driver began to struggle with the waning grip of his car.
Ocon spent the ending stages of the race trying to overtake his teammate, who gave no quarter. Even after the team order came through, Perez stood his ground and maintained that he could catch Ricciardo and steal the first podium in 2017 for Force India. Whether visions of grandeur or the blazingly fast and fully recovered car of Sebastian Vettel had a part to play, Perez soon found himself stuck behind Ricciardo while team orders kept barking in his ear to let his teammate pass.
It suffices to sat that Perez did not yield, and that the wrath of a very irate teammate has been incurred. Ocon wasted no time blasting Perez during his in-race radio chatter saying that that kind of driving has no place in the world of fair racing:
“He cannot do that. He cannot do that. He moved at the last moment. What is this? He cannot do that. This is not fair racing at all.”
– Esteban Ocon
While Ocon’s fiery words may have been designed to incite the fear of wrath within his teammate, Perez has shown that he holds absolutely no qualms regarding his most recent Grand Prix performance:
“I pretty much spent the whole race behind Ricciardo on his DRS window and I was really close to him. What I needed was a single mistake and a single lock-up, but he basically drove a perfect race.
He didn’t do a single mistake. When the team asked me to let him (Ocon) pass we were coming up to lap some cars so I asked to give me the chance.
In the end I had 40 or so laps to put the move on Ricciardo and he didn’t do a single mistake. Esteban had 40 or 50 laps behind me on much fresher tires and he was never close to me to make a move.
In the end, we all finished where we deserved to finish.”
– Sergio Perez
Perez is not the first driver to ignore team orders, and he won’t be the last. Although his actions do set a highly intriguing narrative for the upper-midfield team: what will the working relationship of the duo be like in the future, and will Force India’s dominance in the midfield pack be threatened? One could argue that the teams strong showing in the 2017 season has been due to the drivers working in tandem to bring home as many points per race as they can–a reality that won’t last for much longer should Perez keep his antics up.