Behind the headlines – Spa – How do you solve a problem like Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon?

Behind The Headlines Features

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon once again came together during the Belgian Grand Prix, while they were fighting for position on lap twenty-nine of the race. This is their second collision on track in three months, and it’s beginning to from the team’s point of view get a bit out of hand.

Both Perez and Ocon are great drivers, who are pushing each other very hard and it is great we are seeing both of them fighting, but they need to learn ‘the rules of engagement’ as they need to be able to deliver for the team.

Rewind to Baku

Perez and Ocon both collision in Baku, on lap twenty of the race they were running fourth and fifth respectively. When Perez tried to go around the outside of Felipe Massa, his team-mate Ocon, followed the Brazilian through on the racing line.

But that pushed Perez into the wall, and Ocon clipped his front wing causing it to break.

After the race, Perez said “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. 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.”

Ocon said “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 1, and then I was on the inside for Turn 2, and we touched again. Unfortunately, it’s racing and it happens sometimes.”

Fast forward to Spa

On lap 29, it appeared as if Esteban Ocon had the momentum coming out of La Source got alongside Sergio Perez, who took his line squeaking Ocon towards the wall to close him off. But Ocon still had the momentum going alongside hit Perez giving him a puncher.

Ocon said “Of course he knew. I accept the first one. We were three-wide, maybe he didn’t see me – even if I think he saw me.”

Perez said “I knew he was there but I also knew there was no more space to go, so I just protected my line. I thought he was obviously going to make the manoeuvre after Eau Rouge.”

Perez accepted responsibility for the first coming together, but says t he second incident but believed he would not try to pass until the Kemmel Straight.

The difference

The Baku incident was just in my view a racing incident, as Ocon saw a gap to get past Massa after Perez made his move. But he may have under estimated the closing speed of Perez, but he had the position on the racing line.

The Spa incident was different, as it was Perez ahead of Ocon when he tried to make a move to get past his team-mate. Perez had the right to use his normal racing line and Ocon should have responded to that. In racing the unwritten rule is that the lead car/bike sets the pace, and though that they can dictate overtaking.

Driver management

Teams need to be able to manage their drivers, however, they know the fans do not want ‘staged managed’ racing. Team orders are part of the sport but we do not want every time a teammate battles his teammate, for the team to say “Yes let your team-mate past” or “No you can’t past” because that isn’t racing.

Drivers need to be allowed to fight each other on track and they need to respect each other, and even more respect their teammates. It’s like saying “I can punch my colleague and get away with it twice” – no you wouldn’t.

Racing is different as they know they can ’beat up’ their team-mates on track and get away with it. Rules of engagement sound good, however, when it comes to that heat of the moment, I doubt anyone would think “Remember rules of engagement.”

Diplomacy by Twitter

Over the last two days, we have seen a number of tweets being sent between the two drivers trying to gain the support of their fans and the public.

Ocon Tweeted “In the heat of the moment and given the dangerous situation, I was very much upset. But we will be moving forward, we are a team and I appreciate my team mate apologising. We want to work together”

“I’m committed to the success of Force India,  I’m confident that as a team we will put this behind us to reach even greater levels of success together”

Perez Tweeted “Although it could have been better today, we made a good Quali and tomorrow we have a great opportunity to make good points! P8 ???”

Then this video

Force India’s dilemma

Force India now face a problem going forward, do they continue to allow them to race, increase the use of team orders or even dismiss one of them at the end of the season?

Force India need both of them, but like with every team, they need to be able to effectively manage their drivers. Perez and Ocon, both need to understand each other’s racing and with your team-mate, I feel you must give that extra bit of space.

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