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Force India could drop team orders after Mexico

NEWS STORY
24/10/2017

Force India COO Otmar Szafnauer admits team could drop team orders after this weekend's Mexican Grand Prix.

Following a number of high profile incidents which saw Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon clashing, the Silverstone-based team finally acted in the wake of a controversial Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps when twice the Mexican forced his 'teammate' into the wall on the run down to Eau Rouge.

In the first, for which he took responsibility, Perez claimed that as he battled Nico Hulkenberg on his left on the opening lap he wasn't aware of Ocon's presence on his right.

However, a second incident which left both cars damaged, necessitating pit stops, and the deployment of the safety car, the team finally opted to institute team orders.

Again, the pair had been battling for position, and once again Perez forced his teammate into the wall, leading to Ocon subsequently claiming that his teammate had endangered his life.

"It looked like Sergio squeezed Esteban into the wall and came out the loser of that scrap," said Szafnauer at the time.

"In the future they'll never have that opportunity again," he warned. "We've let them race up until now. If they can't do it in a manner which is good for the team, then they won't be racing anymore.

"They shouldn't be coming together," he added. "We've given them the latitude to race and I've always said that. We've told them if it happens again, if a Baku-type incident happens again, then we'll be calling the race from the pit-wall in the future. If we stay fourth it will cost us nothing, but it's definitely cost us points."

Since then the two have indeed had their wings clipped, and in Japan and again in Austin, calls for one to be allowed to pass the other were ignored, the pair ordered to fall into line.

On Sunday, despite being on fresher rubber and seemingly quicker, Perez' calls to be allowed to pass Ocon were ignored, the Mexican subsequently being passed by Sainz. Unwilling to allow the Mexican through, the team simply told him that his teammate was making a better job of managing his tyres.

After this weekend however, fans can expect to see the Panthers go head to head again, with fourth in the standings seemingly wrapped up.

"We have got to get through one more race and hopefully by then we'll have clinched fourth place," admitted Szafnauer, according to Motorsport.com. "That's what it is all about. Once we get through that then maybe we can relax and do things a bit differently in the last two."

Referring to Austin, he said: "Even if we let Checo past, the team wouldn't have scored any more points. And its about us scoring points. We frankly don't care which one scores the points, we don't want to swap them around. We want to eliminate the risk and score the points. Once we are assured of fourth place, then we will change stuff."

Asked if Sainz passing Perez for seventh had caused the team to regret it decision, Szafnauer insisted: "No. There are many reasons why that happened, including if you push the tyres too early, then you don't have them to defend. Esteban was managing his tyres better and towards the end could defend against Carlos."

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