Force India duo Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez clashed dramatically during the Belgian Grand Prix, the third incident between the two teammates in pink, which is sure to further sour a partnership that is becoming increasingly volatile and even dangerous.
On the opening lap Perez claims he was unsighted when he squeezed his teammate Ocon into the wall as the field rushed towards Eau Rouge at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps Circuit.
Ocon’s car clattered into the wall as he was forced into a fast reducing gap by his teammate. Fortunately for both there was no damage despite the force of the impact.
On lap 30 the pair again tussled exiting the hairpin and on the same stretch to Eau Rouge. This time Perez knew Ocon was trying to pass on his right, but when the pair were almost side-by-side the Mexican appeared to close the door on the Frenchman, they collided again with Ocon losing his front wing.
But it was Perez who got off worst as the contact punctured his right rear. He nearly lost it through Eay Rouge but kept it together and drove around to his pit for new rubber while the safety car was deployed to clear the pink debris and bits of tyre.
It was clearly a cynical move by Perez, as it could be argued that even if he had not closed the door on his teammate would still have been better positioned for Eau Rouge than Ocon.
Ocon was livid as he screamed into the team radio: “Guys what the f*ck is he doing? Honestly, what the f*ck is this guy doing?”
Speaking to journalists afterwards, Ocon said, “The first incident, I accept it even if I think he saw me in the mirror. We were three wide, but I accept that one even if he squeezed me into the wall and that’s very dangerous and not professional.”
“But the second one is one too much. What is the point of doing that? He just squeezed me into the wall at 300kph risking my life, risking his life, for no reason and costing a lot of points for the team. He’s supposed to be a professional driver and he didn’t show it today.”
He also said he would confront Perez, “I will tell him the truth. I will not be scared of him, I will go and talk to him. If it needs to be mean words it will be. How many points have we lost today?”
“We are running in great positions, it’s just a stupid move and there was no need to do that. It’s even worse for him – he’s 28, he’s been in F1 for seven years, so I guess he has to think about what he does,” added
Perez accepted the blame for the lap one incident, “The first one was 100 per cent my fault. I have to accept that one and I put my hand up for that one. My mistake came at the start. I selected the start too late and I didn’t have the right mode for that so I had 50 per cent less power. I totally didn’t see him at all him at all.”
“The second incident I think Esteban was really optimistic there because there was no room for two cars. He had the whole straight to do the manouvere so it’s a shame that we touched. We ruined our race. I’m very disappointed with myself today. It’s the first time that I do something wrong that I have to say it. This is the day with the first collision.”
But with regards to the contentious second incident, Perez was unrepentant, “The second one was too much on the limit, there was no room for Esteban to go. The other one would have been quite avoidable.”
“We just have to talk and if we look back everything started in Baku. But now we have to move forwards as a team. Today we lost many points, people are closing the gap to us, to very important,” added Perez.
Ocon went on to finish ninth, while Perez was classified 17th om a day where both were capable of a top ten finish higher up the order.