P.S – Slightly long article with more numbers than usual. Opinions expressed are solely the writer’s.
Who should an F1 team favour? An experienced driver with almost 125 races under his belt or an upcoming rookie who is 16 races into his career? That was the question at the Force India pit wall on Sunday late into the Canadian Grand Prix.
At this stage of his career, Sergio Perez – or as the paddock likes to call him, Checo, is a prime candidate for moving up the order when Kimi Raikkonen retires. His tyre management, the ability to squeeze out overtakes and the calm he shows when under pressure have made sure that he is noticed both by the audience and the top tier teams.
Esteban Ocon, on the other hand, is quickly rising among the ranks and proving himself to be a reliable driver in all conditions. If he uses his opportunities right, he has the potential to be a World Champion someday. Between him, Verstappen and Sainz – the trio of young drivers, I feel like there are going to be a lot of championship trophies. That, however, is the discussion for another day. For now, let’s keep it to what happened at this race.
Let’s have a recap of what went down. Perez came into the pits from P3, came out just behind Ricciardo. This pushes Ocon up to P3 and subsequently P2 as Bottas came into the pits a few laps later. 13 laps later, Ocon comes into the pits and re-joins the race in P6, behind his teammate. With super soft tyres, Checo has managed to hang on to Ricciardo’s car for all these laps. Soon, a three car train formed and the story of how the two Force India cars hounded the red bull can be aptly summed up in this one GIF.Source – WTF1
With both Ferrari drivers closing in at a rate just enough to catch the Pink Panthers with about 10 laps to go, Ocon got on the radio and asked to be let past Checo so that he could use his fresher tyres to attack Ricciardo. This information was relayed to Checo who basically turned down the request saying if he couldn’t do the overtake then Ocon had practically no chance. When he was told that Checo will be let back past if Ocon wasn’t successful, he asked for 3 more laps to try his best and was granted those 3 laps.
While these negotiations were going on, Kimi developed a braking issue and now it was only one Ferrari chasing them. Although it was only one Ferrari, it was a man with a goal. Sebastian Vettel was unwilling to give up any points to his rival, Lewis Hamilton. If that meant a dive bomb in T1 on Ocon and another late move onto Checo at the final chicane, he was willing to do it. And boy did he do it.
Source – Japan Today
Coming back to the topic at hand. It was a prospective P3 and P5 that ended up in a P5-6 for the Force India team. Could Ocon have passed Ricciardo if given the opportunity by Perez? Was Sergio driving for himself rather than the team? Did he not have enough confidence in his teammate’s abilities? Did Force India need to be more authoritative in telling Perez to let his teammate past? I guess we’ll never know. But one thing is for sure, the relationship between the two drivers won’t be the same again. It will be very interesting to see how this season plays out.
Next Stop, Baku!