Start, Spa-Francorchamps, 2017

Force India will ‘change rules of engagement’ after clash

2017 Belgian Grand Prix

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Force India boss Otmar Szafnauer says the team will ‘change the rules of engagement’ between Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon after yet another clash between the two.

Perez and Ocon made contact twice on the run to Eau Rouge during the Belgian Grand Prix, on the opening lap and on lap 30, which left both cars badly damaged.

Esteban Ocon, Force India, Spa-Francorchamps, 2017
Belgian Grand Prix in pictures
The incidents are the latest in clashes between the Force India team mates to have cost the team significant points. Szafnauer says the team will change their approach to how the two race.

“We’re going to have to talk to them,” says Szafnauer. “We’re gonna change the rules of engagement now. If they can’t keep away from each other, we’ll do it for them.”

Perez appeared to move right into the side of Ocon at the start while Nico Hulkenberg was attempting to pass on the left. Szafnauer says that while the opening lap contact was forgivable, the second clash was less acceptable.

“I think Checo knew he was there,” Szafnauer explains. “On lap one, it’s really hard to know where everybody’s going to end up while you’re trying to predict the imminent future which is hard to do. But when it’s just the two of you, you kinda know where the other guy is.”

Asked how the team could manage the growing tension between its drivers to avoid future incidents, Szafnauer suggested that team orders could come into play.

“You can separate them on track and that’s what we’ll have to do. There are many ways to do that.”

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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  • 51 comments on “Force India will ‘change rules of engagement’ after clash”

    1. I don’t know why everybody is so adamant the incident was Perez’s fault.

      I think he should take half the blame, but it was pretty clear to me, watching the on board live, that Ocon was trying to stick his nose into a gap that was closing ahead. Everybody knows there’s a concrete wall there, and Perez was obviously going to defend hard. There was plenty of time to back out of the move. I think Ocon should take as much responsibility as Perez for this.

      1. The stewards agree with you.

      2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        27th August 2017, 16:08


        There was plenty of time to back out of the move

        Really? :-) I was actually impressed by Ocon’s moves. Perez obviously squeezed him both times but those were gutsy passes.

      3. Ocon really has a thing for Perez lately and FI should control him before they lose Perez.

        1. I think ist the other way round they should control Perez before they loose Ocon. He’s the future.

          1. Easy then mate let Perez go and they can stick to their future with Ocon. Either way Perez has already hit the glass ceiling with them anyway. You must do a little racing you seem very knowledgeable.

      4. Ocon was alongside. Ocon backed off at the last moment yet Perez moved towards him. Perez also had plenty of time to leave the space.

        You are obliged to leave space when an other car is alongside your car.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          27th August 2017, 16:16

          @f1mre I agree – while Ocon’s moves were very risky against a teammate and a bit show-offy, it was Perez who forced the collisions in the end. Strange cause Perez had managed to catch him and pass Ocon and could have done so again. Perez’s no slouch as a driver – it could have been a great fight between them.

          I have a feeling that Perez considers Ocon his lesser (maybe rightly so) and he deserves #1 status in the team. Ocon obviously doesn’t think so.

        2. He was never alongside Perez and I did not see Ocon back off.

          1. Look again. If they weren’t alongside each other at least for certain percentage of the cars there wouldn’t have been contact.

          2. Ocon doesnt know the long game play… they were going into Eu Rouge, and there was no way he would fit into the lane without causing collision 100m down the road! He is either silly or really hate Perez… If he is clever, he would tuck behind and do an easy peasy slip stream overtake in the straight… It was dumb move by Ocon, not saying what Perez did was right, but Ocon was really dumb to even try it going into Eu Rogue, i dont remember any clever driver doing it…

            1. That’s exactly he was doing. Running alongside down to Eu Rouge would make him much closer in Eu Rouge and therefore in the following Kemmel straight, allowing him to overtake Perez.

        3. All the time you must leave a space!

      5. Agree, even not as hard as Verstappen , Perez is known to defend hard and he obviously and continuously close the door, Ocon is impatient and still has lot’s to learn before sticking a professional pass at the right time.

        1. His car with the higher end speed would have made easy work of Perez in the DRS zone. He needs to learn how to pick his battles.

    2. Force India’s position is relatively safe at present, It must be annoying them to lose the results the team deserve but it’s not costing them championship position yet.

      But as one of the commentary team mentioned, those parts cost money. And FI is a leanly operated team. They can’t afford to be throwing money away on repairs and parts that could be sent elsewhere.

      No one likes to see team orders, but they’ve shown they clearly can’t race wheel to wheel together.

    3. These two drivers have enormous Ego, they definitely need to be separated, the team is to blame for this situation, they should have take action since the canadian grand prix, one thing is clear: there is not enough room for both drivers in force india town, and if Ocon goes to Renault expect the same problems with Hulkenberg.

      1. Agreed he will Bully the crap out of Hulk.

      2. Hulk just doesn’t seem like the guy who will tangle with his teammate on track. Perez has a history of tangling with teammates on track. The Hulk would most probably beat Ocon, but even if they were battling on track, he would give more space than Perez is currently leaving.

        1. What history?!

          The only ones I can remember were with Button at Bahrain, and those two contacts were a brake test by Button on a 90 degree corner and the British banging wheels with Perez on the straight, where the Mexican was way on the outside of the straight and driving perfectly in a straight line…

          … it was so obvious that Button himself had to interrupt the live broadcast and interfere with the analysis that the likes of Hill, Brundle and Davidson were making, and their opinions were the opposite view of their fellow countryman.

          That show of Button in live TV was a complete travestry!

            1. I’ve never seen a driver going to such extents to cover his own tracks as Button did that day…

          1. where can I watch that?

    4. A starter would be to not bring them together by pitting the driver behind first…

      1. @crammond
        I think you’ve got a really good point there. They would usually allow the front car to pit first (Ocon in this instance) to avoid being undercut, but they pit Perez first.
        Intetestingly on the team radio, when Ocon kicked off and asked why, they seemed to blame him for not being fast enough considering Perez’s 5s time penalty.
        So maybe Ocon shouldn’t have been in that position if he’d have been driving better?
        Or maybe the team shouldn’t have risked yet more tears (it’s not like they don’t already have form) by engineering them to be closer on track!
        I think coming out behind Perez wound up Ocon further. A driver with more experience would have known to wait for the Kemel straight, slipstream, drs, etc and had the pass on a plate.

    5. I think Ocon is a dirty driver. This being his first year and I do not like the way he is trying to bully Perez on track.

      I have watched Perez race for many years successfully against talented teammates like Hulk without major incidents.

      FI should control Ocon’s horrible behavior. If they cannot Perez should look for a seat elsewhere.

      1. Are you serious? Perez is really dirty and risky and has shown that since his early days driving against Button. You sound more like Checo’s mother with an anonymous account. LOL

      2. Clearly you’ve forgotten about Perez’s McLaren stint then. I’m not saying Perez is a dirty driver, but he’s been known to get over aggressive when racing his teammate. The reason he was well behaved over the past 3 seasons, is because the Hulk is a well behaved teammate and a strong team player.

      3. This is a competition. I am impressed that Ocon is not chickening out of overtaking just because his teammate is a senior guy and with the team for a longer time. The team does not share your opinion that Ocon is a bully and it is impressive from Force India that there is no favouritism for a senior driver. As regards, Perez finding a seat elsewhere…question is where?

        1. Ocon is an idiot and continues to sabotage FI efforts and that’s the bottom line. Here is a rookie driver sticking his car in places it should not be. You clearly hear his anger on the radio. Your bias for Perez is clear for everyone to see.

    6. It looks like the team favores PER and he knows it.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        27th August 2017, 16:12

        @anunaki why do you think Hulkenberg left even though he managed to be quicker in a car that didn’t suit him?

        1. Hulk saw a great opportunity with a works team. He enjoyed working with Perez so do not even start that.

          1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            27th August 2017, 16:20

            Hulk was a great team player – I don’t think he was happy with Force India at the end or the new car which completely favored Perez. Hulkenberg was outscoring Perez to the tune of 2-to-1 and then the new car suddenly helped Perez outscore Hulkenberg over 2 seasons. Hulkenberg is such a fast driver that he managed to be faster than Perez but he surely wasn’t happy about it when it cost him 100 points and 2 seasons…

            1. You’re insane…

              Cheese tires were with from the year 2012 till last season!

              The car was the same in the three seasons they were together at Force India: 6 cylinder hybrid engines and cheese tires.

      2. Perez is senior not to mention all the success he has given to FI. All other teams treat their lead driver better than that.

      3. @anunaki Not at all, in fact it’s the other way around, I’ve heard that Perez is unhappy about how Otmar S blamed Perez on live tv but protected ocon in baku for the same thing.

    7. Omg…I can’t believe so many comments here supporting Perez. obviously Perez knew his teammate was on his right hand side. While he had plenty of space on his left, why did he still stick to his racing line (as he explained) and not leaving gap to his TEAMMATE and risking his teammate in danger? I couldn’t see moving a little bit left would compromise his pace and position. This incident was completely avoidable and Perez should be fully responsible to it

    8. Ocon: “The first incident at the start, I accept. Even if I think he saw me in the mirror we are three wide, so I accept that one even if he squeezed me into the wall, that’s dangerous and not professional. But the second one is just one too much. What’s the point of doing that? He just squeezed me into the wall, 300kph, risking my life, risking his life for no reason and costing lots of points for the team. He’s supposed to be a professional driver, he didn’t show it today.”

      One thing is clear (if you add Canada and Azerbaijan); Ocon is running Perez much too close, Perez doesn’t like it one bit, won’t accept it and has decided that he’ll be damned before he lets Ocon past, no matter what. Why? Perez is running out of career options and unless he can decisively and consistently outperform his teammate (whoever that might be) he’ll never get a better seat, he’s already too far down the pecking order, and could even be out of F1 altogether.

      1. Perez’s attitude won’t get him a top drive. He’s got the talent to warrant a #2 driver seat at Ferrari or Mercedes, but he has the attitude of a #1 driver, and that just won’t work for Ferrari and Mercedes. Perez blew it at McLaren primarily because of his attitude, so I’m pretty sure all the top teams have kept that in mind.

        1. “Perez blew it at McLaren primarily because of his attitude”

          Perez didn’t blow anything at McLaren, last I checked Perez has scored Force India’s only ever podiums consistently while McLaren is paying Alonso £35M per annum to piddle about with the back markers dragging McLaren & Honda’s brand values down the roof due to the poor car they’ve produced for the past 5 years.

    9. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      27th August 2017, 16:29

      Huge respect for Checo after watching the interview! Class act!!!

      1. Perez has always been a stand up guy and if he is off to Indy or NASCAR it has been a real pleasure watching him race.

        Now I can kinda see the F1 politics that ran off Montoya. Like Montoya if you ask me Perez has that Senna like passion to his racing.

    10. Can’t blame the team for letting them race, but now it’s gone out of hand.

      What surprised me was how the car wasn’t damaged even after that collision at such high speed in that first lap incident.

    11. I think it’s high time to stop blaming egos and observe the fact that one driver was clearly cut off while alongside the other. Ocon did the over-and-under on Perez and was alongside, and then he tried to back off, hence the front wing damage. I think it’s a little too rash to start calling Ocon “uncontrollable” or Perez “arrogant”. It’s a racing incident that clearly should not have happened if the driver protecting the position was a little more careful.

    12. Incredibly dirty driving by Perez, not surprised to see some jumping to his defence on here as sure he is a popular driver and has been likeable and driven well, until this season.

      Now he reeks of desperation as he’s seen this rookie come into his team, run him close at every race and he’s losing stock with top teams through clear petulance in Canada and especially here. Quite honestly I think he will never get into a top team after this season, Ocon 100% will.

      For the correct way to leave space AND get through Eau Rouge see Webber and Alonso.

      1. Also Perez himself AND his team have accepted that he is to blame. So i’m not sure how anyone can defend him, he wouldn’t admit it for no reason.

      2. “Ocon 100% will”

        That is some confidence in an unproven rookie. You must be wise beyond your years or have an amazing crystal ball.

        1. Unproven? I think he’s proving himself very well.

          1. That he can destroy the teams #1 driver’s race consistently. That he lets his anger get the best of him. Yeah I don’t think top teams would want to deal with that babysitting headache.

            Proven plenty no doubt. Also the numbers show him behind Perez so what are you on about.

            1. If you genuinely think a rookie in his first year with the team being within 9 points of a man who has been in F1 for half a decade isnt proving himself then there’s no reasonable discussion to be had here.

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