Spa Francorchamps, 27 Aug 2017: Sahara Force India once again lost valuable points as their drivers clashed with each other and one of them retired. Thus the team is forced to resort to Team Orders and has stated that it would `implement rules’ for the rest of the eight races so as not to lose the fourth place in the Constructors’ championship.
Team Principal Vijay Mallya stated from London through the team press release: “I have been very happy with our overall performance during the 2017 season with both drivers scoring points for the team and racing freely. However, as much as I support competitive racing, the repeated incidents between both our cars are now becoming very concerning. Under these circumstances I have no choice but to implement a policy of team orders in the interest of safety and to protect the team’s position in the constructors’ championship.”
At the mid-way point before the summer break, the team is well-settled in the fourth place with 101 points, 60 points ahead of Williams and 83 points behind Red Bull Racing in the Formula One World Championship title standings for Constructor’s trophy. But the Indian outfit could only garner two points today and have lost a probable 10 points had both the cars finished to their potential. Williams’ Felipe Massa finished ahead of Ocon in 8th place getting two more points for the fifth placed team today.
Sergio Perez retired after the two Force Indias clashed on Lap 32 after the pit stops, where Perez despite a five-second penalty came ahead of Esteban Ocon, which angered the younger driver. Ocon finished 9th. Perez has 56 points to Ocon’s 47 and they are in 7th and 8th positions respectively in the Drivers’ standings.
Sahara Force India has given its drivers a freehand to race and has not placed any team orders thus far despite the two drivers clashing with each other and the team losing valuable points in the process. However, the team had warned them and drivers rookie Esteban Ocon and experienced Sergio Perez were allowed to race.
Esteban Ocon: “On lap one there was a very close moment with my teammate going into Eau Rouge. I can accept this because it was the start of the race and we were three wide, even though I got squeezed into the wall. The second contact with Sergio was too much. He squeezed me towards the wall again, made contact with my front wing, and risked both our races for no reason. It has cost the team points and it’s difficult for me to understand why he was so aggressive. I will take the time to speak to him alone and share my point of view. It’s a shame because we were in a strong position with a competitive car and we should have scored even more points from this race.”
Sergio Perez: “I am very disappointed with how the race went, especially because this was a track on which we should have scored a lot of points. Two clashes with Esteban unfortunately took away our chances and ruined the race for the team. I apologise for the incident at the start, which was totally my fault. I didn’t select the start mode and I was down on power going down the hill. I was battling with Nico [Hulkenberg] and I thought I had a good margin on all the others. I moved to the right without checking my mirrors and didn’t see Esteban was there. In the second case, I think he was a bit too optimistic because there was just no room to make a move. I was covering my line and I expected him to attack after Eau Rouge – he had the whole straight to overtake me. I think we both misjudged the situation and we ruined the race for the team. After that, my car was too damaged to drive. It was a very particular situation and we have to review the incident. There’s very little to say, it was not my best race today. We need to talk about what happened and then move forward as a team to avoid losing more points.”
Chief Operating Officer, Otmar Szafnauer said: “It wasn’t the result we wanted and we left behind a lot of points after a collision between our drivers. This is what you get when you have two very competitive drivers who are fairly equal in performance in a decent car. It has happened to others in the past and it is happening to us now. However, we cannot afford to see this in the future, so we will ensure the team controls what happens on the track. We gave our drivers the chance to sort it out by themselves, but if they cannot do it, we will have to put some more rules in place and take the situation in our control. It’s disappointing to lose so many points when we had the pace to finish well with both cars. Until the clash we had looked very competitive: the pace of the car is something we hold as a positive because we head to another speed track, Monza, next week.”
Hopefully, the drivers talk to each other and better sense will prevail as the team with meagre resources than the other top teams continues to punch about its weight and is on the road for a fourth place for the second consecutive year.
eom/david with inputs from team release