Otmar Szafnauer has admitted he regrets not more strictly imposing the order for Checo to allow teammate Ocon past. The Force Indias were running 4th and 5th in the latter stages of the Canadian GP and were close behind Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull in 3rd. The lead car of Sergio Perez was not closing the gap and it looked as though 4th was all that was on the table.
Ocon behind had pitted for fresh tyres 13 laps after Perez and was adamant that, given the opportunity, he could pass the Red Bull on the fresher rubber, having pulled up behind Perez with good pace.
Whereas other teams may have told the lead car on the road to shift over and let the faster car pass, or tell the faster car that if he is so much quicker he should make the pass himself, what actually ensued was a complex pit to car negotiation between Perez and his engineer.
There was never really an order, as such. More polite requests that were equally politely declined.
While these negotiations took place and the teammates waited to see if an orchestrated pass would materialise, Ricciardo was left relatively unbothered. Something they forgot to consider during this time was that Vettel was catching the pink pair at an alarming rate and before they could say “team orders”, he had passed them both.
So, with the battle ahead intensifying, the panthers settled in for a 5th and 6th place finish. And on any other weekend, that would be worth celebrating. Back to their double points finishing form after the points hiatus in Monaco.
But was there a better result out there? If Perez had have let Ocon pass, could he have taken the fight to Ricciardo when his teammate couldn’t? Could the Mercedes backed youngster have taken his first podium? Ocon certainly seems to think so!
The team were very tight lipped about it after the race saying it would be discussed in the debrief and keen to play down the whole affair. Perez was defensive and Ocon was gracious. But shortly after the race there was a change of tune with Malja tweeting that the teams “policy of no team orders continues but I will specify guidelines to achieve the best team result”
Today, Force India COO Otmar Szafnauer has admitted that the team should have been more assertive and that they took too long to make any decision so the moment to optimise the strategy had long passed.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing because you have more information. What I would have done is perhaps swap them earlier – just after the Ferraris pitted. Do it then and it is easy.
“You can get your tyres back up to temperature and there is no risk from behind. Then, if it doesn’t happen, you still have time to swap back. We didn’t do that, we started discussing it a bit late and then after it was too late.”
It remains to be seen how the team’s policy will be altered going forward and whether the harmony in the team is still rosy!