Sergio Pérez is the greatest Sahara Force India driver in the history of Formula 1 and the number of podiums he has for the team indicate that. But in 2017, the Mexican faced the toughest challenge in his F1 career, apart from his rough 2013 season with McLaren. Esteban Ocon represented that big challenge. The Frenchman’s consistency and speed in his second F1 season showed “Checo” his work was cut out for him against his young teammate.
Sergio Pérez Or Esteban Ocon: Who Will Reign Supreme in Round Two of The Pink Battle?
In fact, both Force India drivers maintained the closest inter-tearn battle in 2017. Despite not being the narrowest teammate-fight in terms of points, it was the most controversial and rough racing action.
The Mexican driver led the way in every statistical comparison possible. Pérez scored 100 points to Ocon’s 87. He won the race-position fight 12 to 8 and dominated Saturdays 13 to 7.
All that was logical. Because it’ll never be easy for a driver in his first season in a squad to outduel a teammate who has been there for three full years.
Pérez beat a teammate for the first time on Saturdays since 2012, when he defeated his then-colleague at Sauber Kamui Kobayashi. And his Sunday success represented his third year beating his teammate in race position. All three occasions happened in the last three seasons. Whilst Ocon, in his short F1 stint, hasn’t been able to win a Qualifying battle. But he did defeat Pascal Wehrlein at Manor in 2016 by six to three.
Mexico’s hero scored 100 or more points for the second straight season and ended the championship in seventh place again. Pérez occupied the first non-Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull spot in the standings. Ocon had 87 points but had a great run with his speed and his consistency. The Frenchman finished 19 of the 20 races and the first retirement of his career was in the 2017 Brazilian Grand Prix in the first lap, when his fellow French driver Romain Grosjean crashed into him.
Pink Clash, Round One
Formula One fans loved Ocon vs Pérez fight because it provided good and hard racing in the middle of the pack. The Pink Clash started in Canada when Pérez was fourth behind Daniel Ricciardo‘s Red Bull and Ocon was fifth. Sebastian Vettel was sixth and closing in on the Frenchman’s pink vehicle. Ocon asked his team to tell Pérez to pick up his pace or to let him go and attack Ricciardo, who was within striking distance.
Pérez dismissed the comment with a “let us race” message. Ocon attacked his teammate at the last chicane of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, but Pérez defended his position with everything he had. As Vettel closed in and overtook Ocon, he proceeded to make an attempt on Pérez’s car in the same location Ocon made his move.
But Pérez reacted differently, letting the German’s Ferrari go through with ease, which raised some eyebrows. Ocon said after the race his teammate’s move could put both of them “out of the race”.
“All is Good”
The Canada issue started the battle, which soon became a war when both drivers collided in Baku while running P4 and P5 after a Safety Car restart. Pérez retired after the crash and Ocon managed to finish sixth in an eventful race. The Mexican labeled the clash as “totally unacceptable for the team”.
Then, at the Start of the Hungarian Grand Prix they had another encounter, with the Frenchman bumping into the side of Perez’s car at Turn 1 and pushing him off the track, Pérez reacted on the radio saying it was “just a little touch, but I think all is good”.
But the good lasted until the next race in Belgium, where Pérez slammed Ocon into the wall twice in the race, the second time ultimately damaged both cars and forced the Guadalajara-born driver to retire. Ocon accused his colleague of trying “to kill” him twice in the same race.
Both drivers managed to finish the year with a truce after all the tension. But their fight will resume in 2018 with a much-leveled playing field since Ocon has more experience inside the team and the category as well.
Pérez threw the ball into Ocon’s court by saying “the pressure for 2018 will be on his side”.
“It will be his second year with the team and everyone will expect great things from him.”
The Mexican said to Autosport his “main target” is beating Ocon, who he praised after his 2017 performance, again.
“I think he has a lot of talent, he has arrived at the team very well prepared. There is no doubt that he is a great driver. During the whole year, it was a challenge to run with him.”
Ocon is hoping for a tight but fair fight
The French Driver expressed his hopes of beating Pérez in 2018. Force India’s Chief Operating Officer, Otmar Szafnauer, stated to L’Equipe both drivers will be allowed to fight in 2018.
Szafnauer said the driver’s scramble “is a thing of the past”.
Ocon talked about his relationship with “Checo” and explained his objective for the upcoming campaign.
“We had difficult times, but our relationship and the environment is fine now. I want to beat him, of course. I have more experience now and it should be a tight fight, but that’s what I want.”
The fight inside Sahara Force India is one of many inter-team battles which will take place in the upcoming 2018 F1 season. But certainly, it will be one to remember, given the parity between both drivers, their competitiveness, and their stated goal to beat each other.
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