Racing Point Force India has decided to reinstate the ‘rules of engagement’ for their drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban following the 2018 Formula 1 Singapore GP.
Before Perez had an uncharacteristic run-in with Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin, the Mexican’s grand prix in Singapore didn’t start off well as he was involved in the retirement of his teammate Ocon on the opening lap.
The two were side-by-side into Turn 3 when they touched wheels which sent Ocon into the wall as he retired immediately. Perez apologised for the incident but the damage was done as team principal Otmar Szafnauer came hard on the two drivers.
“An extremely disappointing race,” said Szafnauer. “It’s unacceptable for teammates to hit each other and it has cost us dearly. They didn’t leave each other enough room and the contact put Esteban into the wall.
“We will therefore reinstate the rules of engagement we operated last year after similar incidents, which means they cannot race each other. This disastrous race is all the more frustrating when you consider the speed we showed in qualifying and the opportunity that has passed us by.
“These painful lows are part of racing and it’s fair to say that there are very few positives to take from tonight apart from the car pace. We will have some discussions behind closed doors and will learn from what happened so that we can become stronger as a team.”
While it was the end of Ocon’s race, Perez continued on in seventh and looked good in the first stint ahead of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. In fact, the Mexican was in touching distance of Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo.
However, the team decided for an early stop and opted to put him on the ultrasoft tyres. To his bad luck, he came out behind Sirotkin who already had a stop for the soft tyres after part of Ocon’s car stuck on his front wing.
The two drivers continued to race each other for several laps until the moment they collided. Perez was getting agitated behind the Russian and complained several times on the radio of Sirotkin moving under the braking.
He went past Sirotkin but the Russian stayed with him in a wheel-to-wheel fight in the left-hand corner. On exit, Perez was on the outside with Sirotkin in the inside and just as they turned, Perez moved slightly to his left and they touched.
The Mexican was handed a drive-through penalty as he finished 16th. Post race, Perez accepted that he closed the door rather early on Sirotkin and the penalty was fair on him. “With Esteban, I came out of Turn 1 picking power.
“Then all of a sudden I felt a hit. I didn’t know who it was but then I found out that it was Esteban, so I apologised to the guys [straightaway]. It is a shame. I feel so bad for the team because we really need to be scoring points at every race.
“The clash with Sirotkin was very costly as well. It was hard racing [though]. He was defending his position very hard and battling very hard. He was moving a lot under braking and had a lot of lock-ups at the braking.
“When I was going through him, I tried to close the door but I think he was too close there. In the end, it was not ideal but it wouldn’t have change anything in my result. For the team, it wasn’t good as we didn’t score any points.
“I have to see the incident but I probably closed the door earlier than I should, but I think the penalty was fair,” he explained. The lost chance means they sit seventh still with 32 points but McLaren have slightly increased the gap to 58 after Singapore.
Meanwhile, Sirotkin was satisfied with the hard racing but the Russian said the hit with Perez compromised his car’s balance which led to the incident with Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley for which he was handed a five-second time penalty.
“There were a lot of good fights,” he said. “I was in a good position at the beginning of the race, I really enjoyed those fights. Unfortunately, I had a contact with Checo where I had quite a big damage to the front part of the car.
“My floor and bargeboard was properly damaged and a lot of parts were moving up and down throughout the laps and corner to corner. So, after that point, it was just about survival. For the contact with Brendon, I didn’t even know it.
“I was not really fighting, I was kind of protecting my position under braking and as I said my car was quite damaged, I was the car under braking and then its been kind of from myself to just trying to stop it from not hitting the wall.
“I understand that Brendon was outside, so he was kind of waiting if I end up on the wall or not. If you look at my own onboard, I was very close to park it there. It is fair that I got the penalty for it because I blocked him.
“But it was not because I wanted to fight, it was just kind of surviving from the wall,” he explained. The Russian eventually finished 19th with teammate Lance Stroll only managing 15th in a difficult race for the team.