Force India have enjoyed an excellent first half of the Formula 1 season having pulled away from the midfield and taken the next step on the ladder of the Constructors Standings. But Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon must retain their solid points-scoring form and avoid collisions with one another if they are to keep Williams at bay.
Perez and Ocon have collected 101 points for the team so far, the former a proven threat, the latter establishing himself as a driver that delivers, shedding the skin of “promise” this season by matching and beating his more experienced teammate on several occasions.
Force India’s tally so far indicates that 2017 should be their most successful season yet, and the hard work in the first half of the year puts a chasm between themselves and Williams, who have less than half of Force India’s points.
— Sahara Force India (@ForceIndiaF1) July 28, 2017
Going forward, both drivers have a small amount of room for improvement. Sergio Perez could at times have been less aggressive on-track against his own teammate and must realise in hindsight that the team must come first. This issue has already cost the team too many points this season.
Esteban Ocon needs to find a bit more pace in qualifying, having only beaten Perez twice, during Bahrain and Hungary qualifying. The VJM10 has the capabilities to get into Q3 regularly. It makes his race pace even more convincing though, given that he’s only 11-points shy of his teammate in the standings despite starting a net 22-places behind the Mexican over the opening 11 races.
BEST RACES SO FAR
Catalunya: Perez 4th – Ocon 5th
The Spanish Grand Prix set a clear statement to Force India’s midfield rivals – ‘you guys will be lucky to spot our rear-wing this season’. The result was the team’s biggest points haul so far this season, and realistically thrust them beyond the clutches of Williams and Toro Rosso early on. It’s true that the team were aided by the retirements of Valtteri Bottas, Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen, but the result nonetheless indicated that the team had the capability to transcend the midfield.
— Sergio Pérez (@SChecoPerez) May 13, 2017
Montreal: Perez 5th – Ocon 6th
Another strong showing that hints at a very promising chance for the team to fight Ferrari and Red Bull at Spa and Monza, given the similar high full-throttle, heavy-braking zone characteristics that all three circuits share.
Force India finished only five-seconds behind the Vettel/Ricciardo battle ahead, and could have challenged them towards the end had Perez allowed Ocon to go through on fresher rubber. They finished 20-seconds ahead of Kimi and Hulkenberg, the top eight were the only cars to finish the race without being lapped.
WORST RACE SO FAR
Baku: Perez DNF – Ocon 6th
— Esteban Ocon (@OconEsteban) June 25, 2017
Perez and Ocon were too aggressive on the opening lap and collided with each other after climbing the order from their strong starting positions of 6th and 7th. Had the collision not occurred, either driver could have theoretically gone on to win the race given how chaotic the following laps would be. Perez retired on lap 7 with steering issues caused by the coming together, and Ocon had to pit at the end of lap one for repairs and still finished 6th, highlighting how much further up the order he could have finished.
RATING THE FIRST HALF: 9.5/10
The only reason Force India haven’t scored a 10 is due to the Baku collision and the lack of strategic commands during the Canadian Grand Prix. Otherwise, it couldn’t have gone much better for Force India so far.
They are comfortably 4th in the Constructors and Ocon has proven to be more than capable of matching Perez. Both drivers can aim for top eight finishes for the rest of the season, and will be big contenders for outscoring Red Bull in the upcoming two races.