Despite the team’s first double points of the 2018 Formula 1 season in the Austrian Grand Prix, team orders could disrupt the celebrations within Force India after Sergio Perez said he wants to check with the team on the call made.
Esteban Ocon had a good start to move into 10th on the opening lap while Sergio Perez got upto 13th from 15th in the midfield battle. The Mexican made it into the points after retirements for both Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.
He also passed Renault’s Carlos Sainz in the process to slot himself behind Ocon. However, with no space to double stack, he didn’t pit under the VSC and was called in on Lap 27 when running eighth.
After Haas’ Kevin Magnussen managed to pass Ocon, Force India made the call on Lap 60 for a switch at Turn 3 for Perez to try and chase down Magnussen which effectively became the fight for fifth position.
Ocon was told that if Perez doesn’t get the place, the Frenchman will be allowed back. In the end, Magnussen managed to keep the gap as Perez’s charge was limited due to Williams’ Lance Stroll coming on his path after his late stop.
It compromised the Mexican’s bid as the team asked him to return the place back at Turn 3 itself. “Why mate?”, asked Perez on the radio. ‘”Why is that? Do you think that’s fair?” However, the team still asked him to switch back.
The Mexican had to slow down considerably as Oocn was nearly five seconds behind to eventually let him pass with the team scoring 14 points to to take their tally to 42 as they celebrated their 200th grand prix, but they lost a place to Haas with them seven ahead.
Post-race, Perez didn’t look much pleased as Ocon did. “I don’t know what happened with the decision,” he said. “It is something that we have to go back and see, why I had to give back the position but anyway I am pleased for all the effort the team has done.
“[I am] very happy that we have outscored Renault and we are just closing up the gap. We are expecting some good upgrades [in Silverstone], so hopefully we can even get closer to the midfield group,” he added.
It is unclear if the team alerted Perez of the deal with Ocon. Since Ocon was five seconds behind, even though it wasn’t a huge risk with McLaren’s Fernando Alonso more than 10 seconds behind – it was still a peculiar situation.
“It’s a great team effort with sixth and seventh,” said Ocon, meanwhile. “We were on right strategy first of all, we had a strong first lap and also good pace. Our race pace was not that bad but hopefully we get the upgrade next week and it is going to give us a bit more.”
Last year, Force India were put into a difficult situation with the fight between Perez and Ocon which resulted in few collisions. However, both drivers cleared everything and started to work together for the benefit of the team.
This year though has been a difficult time with the delays on upgrades and also co-relation troubles which has allowed Renault to get ahead with now Haas as well. They are still in a good bunch but for now are placed at the back of that group.