Five F1 2017 Talking Points: Perez-Ocon rivalry one of the season’s highlights
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Posted By:   |  24 Dec 2017   |  8:23 am GMT  |  30 comments

Continuing our look into 2017’s biggest talking points, we’ll now take a tour through Force India’s fantastic season in which it played host to one of the best rivalries of the year; Sergio Perez vs Esteban Ocon.

As often happens when a team has two drivers really going for it to beat each other, it pulled the team up to finish a remarkable fourth in the constructors’ championship. It was reminiscent of Sauber’s 2001 season with Heidfeld and a young Raikkonen.

Against better funded outfits like Renault, Williams, McLaren and even Toro Rosso, this is surely one of the great achievements of the 2017 season. Force India finished 104 points above the fifth-placed Williams team.

It will be extremely hard for them to stay ahead of McLaren and Renault in particular next season.

The pink-tinged VJM10 chassis was a well-designed car produced by a tight-knit team of engineers, and a hungry driver pairing of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon drove each other on to better things.

Yet, that battle had a tendency to boil over at times, leaving Force India’s management to intervene. Let’s take a look.

Sergio Perez vs Esteban Ocon

After Nico Hulkenberg’s departure to Renault left a hole in Force India’s lineup for the 2017 Formula 1 season, the Silverstone-based team filled the void with the promising Ocon, whom they had tested a few times and really liked the look of. He had completed only half a season for the struggling Manor team, but the engineers could see something really exciting and it helped that he is a Mercedes junior driver.

Perez assumed the mantle of de facto team leader, but even in Melbourne was admitting that Ocon was likely to give him a hard time.

He had no idea how hard!

Perez could perhaps have been forgiven for thinking that the 20-year-old Ocon would need time to get up to speed. However, the young Frenchman very quickly showed his aptitude behind a racing car, drawing on all of his experience from his Formula 3 and GP3 title victories to quickly develop a reputation for his smooth, consistent driving.

Impressively soon, Ocon was on Perez’s pace and followed the Mexican home at Barcelona to secure an excellent 4-5 finish for Force India. Although Monaco was rather more inauspicious, the next round at Montreal demonstrated that the battle for supremacy between the two team-mates was beginning to bubble over.

Ocon looked like he was on it from Friday practice onwards on this challenging track; in the race he believed he had a faster car than Perez ahead and asked the Force India pit wall to orchestrate a switch on-track between the two with the intent of catching Daniel Ricciardo. He was met by heavy resistance from Perez, who refused to make way.

The two were quickly caught by a recovering Sebastian Vettel, who dispatched the Force India pair quickly to put paid to any podium chances.

“The move he did wasn’t fair,” lamented Ocon after the race. “He did a very late move at a very, very high speed that could have left us out of the race.”

Arguably, Ocon got his revenge at Baku. Eager to make up positions on the lap 20 restart during a chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the Force Indias found themselves together on-track. Attempting to pass around the outside of his team-mate on the exit of turn 2, Perez found himself squeezed against the wall by Ocon, and was forced to retire with suspension damage – calling Ocon’s moves “aggressive” and “totally unacceptable”.

With the way the race panned out, there was a pathway to a victory that day had the Force India pair kept their noses clean; they were ahead of race winner Ricciardo at the point they collided on a track where their straight line speed made them competitive.

Having been read the riot act by Force India chiefs Bob Fernley and Otmar Szafnauer, the pair managed to keep it clean over the next couple of races – save for a clumsy Perez dive at the Hungaroring where he made contact with Ocon’s sidepod.

The Battle of Spa Francorchamps
It was at the Belgian Grand Prix where the conflict truly came to a head.

Battling hard on the run up to Eau Rouge on the opening lap, Ocon attempted to assume the inside line on the exit of La Source, but Perez edged his team-mate into the wall and made contact, miraculously causing neither driver any damage.

The two returned to the scene of the initial crime after half-distance to continue their battle further, Ocon once more taking the inside line. Immediately given short shrift by Perez, the Mexican chopped across Ocon who left the incident missing half a front wing, while Perez dragged his Force India back to the pits having sustained a cut tyre.

“I saw he was there,” Perez recalled. “Obviously, drivers mainly protect their line, and that’s what I did, I protect my line and there was no room for him to go anywhere.”

As a result on their on-track skirmishes, Perez and Ocon were stopped from racing each other on-track by the Force India management, the team wisely electing to protect its grasp on fourth in the constructors’ championship.

With McLaren and Renault predicted to be more of a challenge for Force India next year, the team will certainly face the sternest test of its resolve so far if it is to secure a third-successive fourth place finish in the constructors’ standings.

The pressure will be on Perez and Ocon to race cleanly with the team’s best intentions in mind.

What did you think of the Perez vs Ocon rivalry? Leave your comment in the section below

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1

It’s one of the best pairings in F1. Perez has certainly proved himself after being unceremoniously dumped by McLaren. Compare this with the Kvyat story.

Completely off topic, has anyone accessed the JAF1 content on Motorsport.com yet? I tried to yesterday but hit a ‘paywall’ called “Prime”. Is that correct?

2

I rate Perez a great deal. He’s quick, gutsy and intelligent and now appears to have matured into the driver McLaren thought they were getting a few years ago. He could win races in the right car, and has the fortitude to sustain a title challenge given the opportunity. I could see him plugging the gap between Raikkonen and Leclerc at Ferrari.

Ocon, though. He caught my attention with his pace at Manor, but he’s exceeded all expectations in 2017. He got up to speed very quickly, against a teammate known to be very good, and displayed the kind of disregard for etiquette and elders that marks out those who go places in F1. I think Perez will find Ocon very tough to beat in 2018, and I think Valtteri Bottas has got his work cut out if he wants to keep his seat for 2019.

3

Ocon did very well during the season, but Perez managed to stay ahead. It’s almost a given that next year Ocon will have the extra experience needed to at least beat his teammate.
When you look at the chart, the battle was closest at Monza;
https://www.racing-statistics.com/en/drivers/compare/esteban-ocon/sergio-perez/seasons/2017

4

An impressive first full season, Esteban isn’t just battling Perez, but Wehrlein as well, looks like he has the upper hand in both fights.

5

Perez may have beat Ocon over the season but he barely did, pairing an experienced driver with 6 seasons under his belt vs rookie you should expect a larger gap. Ocon will beat Perez in 2018 ending Perez ambitions to get a contract with a big team.

6

Ocon is exciting to say the very least. He seems to be a proper beast on the track and much more like-able off it. Very talented, mega fast and without what can be termed as the “entitlement mentality”. In 2 to 3 years time, we could be having this forum split right down the middle between Ocon and Max, like it is today between Seb and Lewis 🙂

Max for sure will be in the mix. Ocon needs to keep up this learning curve to get there by 2020-2021.

7
Tornillo Amarillo

Last 3 qualifies between them:
Mexico = Ocon P6, Perez P10
Brazil = Perez P6, Ocon P11
Abu Dhabi = Perez P8, Ocon P9

Odd, results are tight but in favour of Perez, but almost matching between the Mexican with 7 full sessions in Formula 1 versus 1.5 sessions for Ocon.

But when team bosses voted Ocon the 5th best driver on the rid you see who is better, who has more potential and that Ocon could be a serious candidate for driving a Merc (as a default of Bottas and Ricciardo maybe). He is only 21 years-old!!

I think the battle of 2018 between Perez and Ocon would be in qualify.

8

The telling phrase above: “Yet, that battle had a tendency to boil over at times. . .” is a bit of an understatement, perhaps ? When Perez was dropped by McLaren there was good reason and that’s been apparent for some time, starting when Perez trashed Massa at Montreal by moving into the way well after he should have. And, from that point forward it has been demonstrated on many occasions that the term “sportsman” doesn’t apply.

While it’s obvious there is “some” speed there, it isn’t helped by judgment — or so it has appeared over time. As with another younger and talented driver has shown on several occasions. While it’s nice to finish first, first you have to finish !

The internal tem competition, as @ Gaz-B points out at the top of the comments “just got better with every lap.” And that’s an observable fact.

@ Kenneth echoes the obvious regarding the arrogance of an “entitlement” attitude.

9

I think that’s a bit harsh on Perez’s time at McLaren. Agreeing the contract with a team that, at that time, was regularly winning races messed with his head and his last half-dozen races of 2012 were a mess. He then joined a team in turmoil, who had produced a bit of a dog and had major ructions going on behind the scenes as Ron Dennis maneuvered against the other shareholders to oust Martin Whitmarsh.

Checo started poorly, but adapted well and was operating close to Button’s level by the end of the year. A lot of people in the team felt it was a mistake to drop the improving Perez for Kevin Magnussen, who was unproven above FR3.5. But Kevin was a favourite of Ron’s and Perez was Whitmarsh’s man (Ron wanted to keep Magnussen for 2015 and drop Button, too, but was overruled). Personally, I haven’t seen much in Magnussen since to indicate he’s capable of operating on Perez’s level.

10

Both drivers had a very strong season. I think Ocon looks an outstanding talent and shows maturity way beyond his years both in and out of the cockpit. But I don’t see Perez was outshone; he beat Ocon more often than got beaten, and outscored him, even if by small margins. I don’t care much for the stories about Perez’s temperament. Mansell was a PITA most of the time but he was magic when wringing the neck of an F1 car. Good pairing – if you took the Williams pair and swapped themwith the FI pair then the teams would be swapped around the the WCC table imo.

11

Although a Perez fan, I think Ocon has done an excellent job showing he’s very fast, friendly (at least on camera), and afraid of no one. Really looking forward to seeing him in 2018.

12

Both of them put their egos before the team missing out on possibly a double podium and maybe a race win……..first time they pulled this stunt the team should have read them the riot act, and by not doing that they set the team up for more lost points……in the end it might not have mattered as they were ahead of their rivals.
Have a great Christmas everybody.

13

Ocon has the better of Perez already and Perez knows it.
The Frenchman has star quality written all over him.
Perez has I nearly made it written all over him.

14

Interesting rivalry. I think Esteban Ocon has had a good season. Started solidly, picked up the pace as the season went on and started outpacing Sergio Perez in the closing races. Unlucky at Montreal (the team made the wrong call) and Mexico City (the Virtual Safety Car was inopportune).

In turn, I was disappointed with how Perez handled the rivalry. He was somewhat petulant and unprofessional, refusing the team order in Montreal, making lots of silly jibes after Baku and then getting into collisions with Ocon at the Hungaroring and Spa.

BUT BUT BUT…overall, Perez out-pointed Ocon and, even at season’s end, he still seemed to be the quicker of the two, even if only just. He also showed his strength with his performance at Sepang when he bagged good points despite severe illness. So, yes, his stock has fallen but, all the same, I’d encourage the bigger teams not to discount Perez entirely from their plans. He’s a good learner and may well come back strong next year, even continuing to have the upper hand over Ocon.

15

Pretty much says it all: “. . .petulant and unprofessional, refusing the team order in Montreal, making lots of silly jibes after Baku and then getting into collisions with Ocon at the Hungaroring and Spa.” Hopefully, the year has been instructional. Looking ahead, ’18 may be a final opportunity for advancement — pending evidence of growth.

16

icon is certainly more intelligent than vettel in the way he went about racing. he didn’t lose his head and act angrily towards his adversaries. instead, he sort council, kept his head down and dealt with things as clinically as he could. he is nearly as intelegent as hamilton, the most intelligent f1 driver of all time.

17

i like them both as drivers, incredibly talented, the pair of them but i must add that ocon did very well as a relatively less experienced driver.

some may find this disturbing.

https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.express.co.uk/sport/f1-autosport/896323/Lewis-Hamilton-Mercedes-designer-John-Owen-incredible-car-claim/amp

18

An impressive debut from Ocon, but at the end of the day he was outperformed by Perez, albeit by slender margins. I consider Perez pretty much in the middle of the pack, so Ocon will have to continue to improve and beat Perez next year to step up to a better team going forwards (like Mercedes).

19

Outperformed??
Refresh my memory please on their respective exposure times on the F1 circuit!
I’d have said Perez should clearly have had the wood on Ocon. He didn’t!

20

Perez outperformed Ocon by all objective measures – points, qualifying, on-track positions etc. It’s true that you would expect Perez, in his 7th season (and 4th with the team) to have won by a bigger margin, given Ocon’s relatively lack of experience, but he did win, nonetheless.

Ocon impressed a lot of people, though. He gave Perez a really hard time throughout and at a couple of races, Checo just didn’t have an answer for his pace. I’m a big fan of Perez, but it’s clear that Ocon is special in ways he isn’t. Their battle in 2018 will be like Verstappen vs. Ricciardo on a smaller scale.

21

Perez outqualified, outraced (as in finished ahead in two-car finishes) and outscored Ocon. Force India had very good reliability (did they have any problems all year?), and I don’t think there are any extenuating circumstances to adjust for. Ocon was outperformed, that’s just what happened. Perez outscored him in both the first and second half of the season, so their gap was fairly persistent throughout. You can certainly argue that Perez should have done better, or that Ocon shows more potential, but you can’t magically just put him ahead of Perez; he has to beat him on the track before you can say he’s better.

22

Ocon has really put Perez under pressure this year, and that’s been great. Perez seems to have had a sense of entitlement at FI, and I believe that Ocons talent has really shaken him up a bit.
It’s gonna be interesting to see how Perez reacts to the pressure next year.
But I do believe that Sergio is a fading light. Hope he proves me wrong👍🏻

23

Perez has carried that sense of entitlement from debut. His first season overtake style was simply dive bomb to force competitor wide. He’s improved from there but clearly still carries attitude when up against his younger and smarter team mate.

24

I love the way Ocon grows horns when he gets in a car then becomes a smiling chatty guy out of it. He had the making of Pérez this year and will no doubt improve immensely in 018 – Perez will be desperate to put him in his place I suspect.

A Merry Christmas to you James and best wishes to all my friends and foes

25

They are racing drivers and sooner or later thay will want the same bit of tarmac. Lets hope they still send each other an xmas card this year. And on that note a very merry xmas to all the contributors on this site.

26

Perez fought hard and didn’t give an inch and yet somehow he is portrayed as the bad guy by certain factions of the F1 media.
The incident in Baku was squarely on Ocon as was Spa in my opinion. He went for a closing gap, at a part of the circuit that you rarely see successful overtakes and that a more experienced driver wouldve realised, backed out and bided his time. To then get straight on the radio and moan is indicative of these young driver’s belief that as long as its them being the overly agressive ones it’s ok for its never their fault if it goes pear shaped as a result. When the shoe is on the other foot though watch the dummy spits.
I view Ocon as talented as Verstappen although its clear to me, like the Dutchman, the Force India driver has alot to learn, both from a maturity and racecraft standpoint.

27
Clarks4WheelDrift

Spot on. Exactly as I’d call it also.

Some commentators tend to side a bit too much with the young guy they define too early as “the next big thing” when they may just be quick but unproven.

The rivalry was great, when rivalries were so sparse against teammates elsewhere. Shame the team stopped them fighting completely though. Ocon is quick but despite starting behind, Perez often hooked on to Ocon’s gearbox no problem in the race.

28

I think Ocon might just edge it next year

29

An interesting tussle. I must say that my support of Ocon grew during the season. He is likeable character and i feel that he will do well in the future, if he gets a drive with a better team. I really don’t think much of Perez at all. He seems to be more like a Mexican Hulkenberg regarding his performance. Quite some time ago there were a few comments made which portrayed Perez as another Wehrlein insofar as he was arrogant and edgy , and one who exhibited tendencies of entitlement because of his sponsor! I guess the fact that he’s not been snapped up by any other team rather tells the tale! ’18 should see the further blossoming of Ocon and then we’ll see what he’s made of.

30

Icon has been the ephinany of 2017 – an absolute revelation. He’s the most brilliant youngster this side of Max. I didn’t know much about him before this season, but he’s just got better with every lap.

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