Sergio Perez defied the expectations of many by edging Nico Hulkenberg over the course of their three years as team mates at Force India.
But if he thought life would get easier when Hulkenberg’s place was taken by Esteban Ocon he was in for a surprise. Ocon did half a season with Manor last year and once the championship returned to tracks he’d already visited as an F1 driver he really turned up the heat on his team mate.
The pair had a few run-ins well before then. The way Perez tells it, the collision between their pair in Azerbaijan was the beginning of the trouble. But this was clearly rooted in the team’s mis-handling of the strategies it drivers used in Canada, where Perez refused to consider swapping places with his team mate.
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As well as in Baku, the pair made contact at thew Hungaroring at, most destructively, at Spa-Francorchamps. The latter drove the team to impose a ban on the pair racing each other.
Meanwhile Ocon continued to improve. Perez, who finished ‘best of the rest’ in three of the first seven races, was unable to stop Ocon reeling off three such finishes of his own in consecutive races late in the season. Ocon continued to threaten Perez in the overall points standings until Romain Grosjean took him out in Brazil – one of only two non-scores in the rookie’s entire season.
Perez won the battle but it was closer than many expected. While Force India can be pleased to have two such quick drivers in their cars, they may be concerned about more run-ins during 2018.
Perez vs Ocon: The scores
Perez vs Ocon: Season results
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