Force India seem to be pretty good in Baku. Last year Sergio Perez took a strong podium finish and this year the team were looking good to possibly score another one. However all hopes went out the window after the second safety car restart when Esteban Ocon passed his teammate into turn two, only for the pair of them clash on the exit.
The contact gave Ocon a puncture and the damage caused Perez to drop way down the order too, costing the team a strong result. After the race Perez slammed his teammate and said that the crash was completely Ocon’s fault as the Frenchman left him nowhere to go. He said:
“Between us, we ruined a great opportunity for the team. Actually I feel that I couldn’t have done anything to avoid the accident. I was next to the wall, and there was no room for me to go. It’s a big shame, the way everything turned out, it was just over-aggressive. In all my career I’ve had teammates who have been hard but given enough room. What happened today is totally unacceptable for the team. I think the way he raced today wasn’t right. I think he did didn’t have any logic.”
Perez was later forced to retire from the race as a result of damage from the accident whilst Ocon went on to recover to sixth, but it could have been so much better for the team. At the time the duo were running in fourth and fifth, ahead of eventual winner Daniel Riccardo and behind drivers who all ran into issues later in the race. A double podium was well within reach, and possibly even a victory.
Naturally Ocon had a much more muted view of what happened and put it down to a racing incident, saying:
“I’m happy with the performance and disappointed with the potential we had. Obviously it’s never nice to have an incident like that in the race between me and Checo. I lost a lot of places, but still managed to get some points for the team. He touched me after turn one, and then I was on the inside for turn two, and we touched again. Unfortunately, it’s racing and it happens sometimes. For sure we will discuss it and it should not happen in the future.”
It’s the second time in two races that there’s been a ‘disagreement’ between the two Force India drivers, with Ocon potentially being cost a podium there when Perez refused to give in to team orders.
Having two evenly matched and very quick drivers is a nice problem to have for Force India, but if this sort of thing keeps up it’s only going to cost them in the Constructors’ Championship. After all, they’ve already potentially lost two podiums as a result of the rivialry.
One thing’s for sure – they’ve both come a long way since they were happily joking about how Checo can’t dress himself!
Do you think Perez is right to blame his teammate for the crash? Let us know in the comments.