Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley says the team is not angry with Sergio Perez for not allowing Esteban Ocon through in the Canadian Grand Prix as it let the pair race.
Ocon ran an impressive opening stint, running long on the ultrasoft and rejoining at the back of the queue behind third-placed Daniel Ricciardo battling for the podium. With Perez sitting fourth and Kimi Raikkonen in fifth, Ferrari opted to pit again to get fresh tires and try and attack late in the race. Despite Ocon having a clear tire advantage, when Force India told Perez his teammate seemed quicker and may be able to pass Ricciardo, the Mexican opted not to allow Ocon past.
After Sebastian Vettel jumped both Force Indias late on and relegated them to fifth and sixth, respectively, Fernley admits a podium opportunity slipped away but says the team was never going to resort to team orders between two competitive drivers.
“I think there was a potential podium there,” Fernley told RACER. “Obviously we had given Checo the instruction that we thought Esteban might be a little bit quicker but at the end of the day we have a policy at this stage to say we let them race. We let them race and sort it out themselves, and at the end of the day from a Force India point of view it was still a fantastic result. We come away with a significant amount of points.”
Asked if the team could have had a bigger haul of points if Ocon was allowed ahead of Perez, Fernley replied: “Possibly, but you have to make the decision based on what you want to do.
“Do you want to bring team orders in or do you want to let them race? Our decision was let them race.”
Fernley says there was never a direct order for Perez to swap places with Ocon, despite team radio telling the Mexican he would be handed the position back if no progress was made.
“We give the information through and we’ve got to sit there… We’ll look at it later on. It’s a compliment to the team in some ways that as we progress up the grid these problems come to face us, as they have done with Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, and we have to deal with them as well. Our policy has always been that we let the drivers race and if we have to look at that and change it we will do. But that was the principle we went into the program with.”
With Ocon clearly unhappy after the race, Fernley says there is some frustration but expects both drivers to accept the approach in the post-race debrief.
“Yeah I think there will be [some frustration] but Esteban isn’t like that and neither is Checo. So I think we’ll sort it out – it will be one of those things where you’ve got the heat of a race, one feels that they could get the other one. We’ll sit down, have a look at the data and work it out from there.”