SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (AP) The relationship between Force India teammates Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon is at breaking point after another heated incident during the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday.
They tangled twice on track, getting a narrow escape after going wheel-to-wheel early on and then bumping into each other on lap 30.
In the first incident, they touched wheels as Ocon moved on the outside of the track shortly after the start, with Perez responding by squeezing the Frenchman against the barrier.
Damage was unavoidable after the more serious second incident, as the front wing flew off Ocon’s car and a tire came off Perez’s car, bouncing along the track.
Ocon was furious, unleashing an expletive-laced rant on his team radio, and the 20-year-old Frenchman continued the war of words after the race.
”I can accept the first one, perhaps he couldn’t see me but the second one was ridiculous. He was risking our lives. He risked my life,” Ocon told British broadcaster Channel 4. ”He is supposed to be a professional driver but he is not acting like it.”
Ocon added in separate comments: ”It’s difficult for me to understand why he was so aggressive. I will take the time to speak to him alone and share my point of view.”
Perez, the more senior driver at age 27 and with seven podium finishes, accepted some responsibility.
But he defended himself over the incident on lap 30, which led to the race being held up for four laps as the safety car came out and the 7-kilometer (4.3-mile) track was cleared of debris.
”The one at the start was 100 percent my fault. But the second, I didn’t do anything different to any other driver would,” the Mexican driver said. ”The second one, it was not my fault. I was protecting my line. Tension started when he put me in the wall (in Azerbaijan). ”
In June the drivers collided on track in Baku, Azerbaijan, with Perez having to retire from that race and Ocon finishing sixth.
Ocon was ninth in Sunday’s race, for his sixth straight top-10 finish, but Perez missed out again on some points after retiring on lap 42 of 44.
They are close in the championship standings, divided by just nine points, with Perez seventh overall and Ocon eighth.
The friction began at the Canadian GP, the race prior to Baku, when the faster Ocon was exasperated at his team’s decision not to let him overtake Perez.
Perez finished in fifth place and Ocon had to settle for sixth because team orders – telling Perez to let Ocon past – were not imposed.
Now team orders of a different kind have been imposed.
Force India’s chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer says the pair will not be able to race against each other in this way over the remaining eight races.
”In the future they’ll never have that opportunity again. We’ve let them race up until now,” Szafnauer said. ”If they can’t do it in a manner which is good for the team, then they won’t be racing anymore.”