Perez Ignored Orders from Force India to Let Ocon Pass at Canadian Grand Prix
If Ocon had been let by, would he have been able to pass Ricciardo?
At the Canadian Grand Prix, Force India had another good result. Sergio Perez finished fifth and Esteban Ocon just 0.240 seconds behind him in sixth. They sit seventh and eighth, respectively, in the driver's championship, while the team is a solid fourth in the constructor's standings. The weekend's race netted the team another 18 points. Normally, this would be cause for celebration, but the stats only tell part of the story.
At the Canadian Grand Prix, team orders were given for Perez to let Ocon through. The pair were running in fourth and fifth, just behind the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo. It was thought that Ocon had a better chance to pass the Red Bull car, which meant a possible podium finish for the rookie. Perez disobeyed the order and the pair were eventually passed by Sebastian Vettel.
If Ocon had been let by, would it have made any difference? There are five scenarios that could have played out. In one, the team would have still earned 18 points for the day. The other four would have gotten Force India either 20, 22, 23, or 25 points. The points difference wouldn't change anything thing in driver's or constructor's standings right now, but could come back to haunt Force India at the end of the season.
First, this is how the race unfolded for the four drivers fighting for third through sixth place.
During the race, Force India left Ocon out on his first set of tires for a very long time. He had great race pace and had worked his way up to second by lap 23. He was able to keep the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, who had just pitted for tires, behind him for eight laps.
Ocon pitted on lap 32 for fresh rubber. Of the other cars involved in this, Ocon went the longest on his first set of tires. Vettel pitted early on lap five as he damaged his front wing. Ricciardo was in on lap 18 and Perez on lap 19. This gave Ocon a huge advantage over his rivals.
By lap 42, Ocon got on the tail of Perez, who had been hounding Ricciardo all race. The powers-that-be at Force India told Perez to let Ocon through. Ocon had the speed and tires that were 14 laps newer. He was Force India's best shot at passing Ricciardo for third place. At this point, Vettel wasn't a threat as he was back a bit and had been passed by Kimi Raikkonen.
Force India gave Perez three laps to make the move on Ricciardo and then he was to let Ocon by to have a shot. Perez insisted that he could make the pass if Ricciardo got held up in traffic or made a mistake. He inched closer, but couldn't get the job done. But instead of yielding to the fresher tires of his teammate, he defied the orders and held the position.
Ocon wasn't going to make a desperate move that would end in both cars knocked out. Even when he had a good run on Perez along the back straight, Perez blocked the pass. With every lap that Perez held him up, Ocon was chewing through his tires.
There was another problem. Vettel had stopped for a set of fresh ultra-soft tires on lap 49. He was putting in faster laps times then the trio fighting for third place.
Vettel caught the Force India pair on lap 64. Ocon did his best to hold Vettel off. Vettel out-braked him in turn one, forcing Ocon to cut the corner to avoid getting hit by Vettel. Two laps later, Vettel passed Perez. Vettel finished 0.610 seconds behind Ricciardo.
The finishing order for third through sixth was Ricciardo, Vettel, Perez, and Ocon.
Had Perez let Ocon through when asked, there are several things that could have happened. This is all theoretical, with all other things staying the same.
Ocon most likely would have passed Ricciardo. Vettel probably would have still passed Perez. Vettel getting by Ricciardo would have been a big ask. He didn't do it in the race, so we won't explore that as a possibility. There were only a handful of laps left by the time Vettel caught up to the other three, and getting by all of them was never going to happen in any scenario. This would have meant 23 points for Force India, which is five more than they ended up with.
Below is a chart showing the most likely theoretical options for the finishing positions of these four drivers had Perez let Ocon through as ordered.
What this comes down to is that Perez ignored an order from the team that most likely cost them valuable points. All but one scenario listed above gives Force India more points than what they finished with. The team could care less about which driver finishes in front, so long as both drivers are bringing home the most points possible. Aside from the points, Perez also cost his teammate the chance to get his first Formula One podium.
“In the end I had 40 or so laps to put the manoeuvre on Ricciardo and he didn’t do a single mistake. Esteban had 40 or 50 laps behind me on a much fresher tyre and he was never close to me to make a move. So I mean I think in the end we all finished where we deserved to finish,” said Perez after the race.
None of Perez's statement is true. He was behind Ricciardo from about lap five until lap 68 and he couldn't get by. Ocon was behind Perez for no more than 30 laps. He didn't force his way by because he was under the impression that the team ordered Perez to let him pass. When Ocon did try to pass, Perez used some questionable blocking. Ocon didn't force the issue, as he knew bring points home was better than risking an accident with his teammate.
Perez may have finished where he deserved to, but Ocon had the pace to pick up a few more spots. Hopefully, the team will smooth things over as having infighting among teammates is never a good thing.
If Perez has any guilt about how he acted, he can at least take refuge in the fact that his actions helped give us the sight of Patrick Stewart drinking out of Ricciardo's shoe.