Force India's Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon bid to fix relationship
Force India team-mates hold clear-the-air discussions at Monza; Perez and Ocon sure they can work strongly together for team
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 04/09/17 10:15am
Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon have buried the hatchet four days on from their explosive Belgian GP fallout - with Perez admitting their team-mate relationship at Force India "broke completely" over two months ago.
The pair met for a 10-minute, one-on-one discussion in Force India's motorhome in the Monza paddock to discuss the events of Spa, when they twice collided on track and Ocon accused Perez of trying to "kill" him.
Speaking to Sky Sports F1, Perez admitted their "relationship broke completely" after first clashing at June's Azerbaijan GP and during their Thursday discussion "we looked each other in the eye, we are mature enough to know what is happening is no good for any of us".
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Ocon added: "We spoke this morning and we came to the conclusion that it was useless to keep arguing about what happened. The important thing was to turn the page and we work for the team, score points like we should and keep fourth place. That's what the team deserves."
The pair also believe they can work together successfully moving forwards, despite speculation that the long-running feud may force one to switch to Renault for 2018.
United front in press conference
Mirroring what happened after F1's last high-profile collision involving title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel in Baku, Perez and Ocon were selected to appear alongside each other in Thursday's Drivers' Press Conference ahead of this weekend's Italian GP. Vettel, the championship leader, was the driver positioned between them.
Perez and Ocon insisted they had talked over their problems on Thursday morning and could be trusted to work well together over the remainder of the season.
Both drivers have been linked with Renault for 2018 and put to them both that one might now inevitably have to leave, Perez replied: "That's not the way I look at things. I want to do the best with the current team that I'm with and I want to do the best results.
"We both know we have done wrong in the past for this team. I'm not thinking of running away and I believe that working with Esteban is still possible and it can still be a successful partnership. I'm not thinking to move elsewhere."
The Mexican, who has yet to renew his Force India contract, later told Sky F1: "There's a big chance [we will be team-mates next year]. You never know what will happen in the sport but I believe there's a good chance. I'd like to see how the next eight races go, after the conversation we had today I think we can start to work with each other.
"I don't think many F1 team-mates are friends. You don't have to be their best friends in the world, you have to be professional, put the team first and work for the benefit of the team."
Ocon, who is on Mercedes's books and as a Frenchman would be attractive to Renault, was more circumspect when asked about his future, but insisted there was now respect between himself and Perez.
"I don't know [if we'll drive together next year]. We push each other hard and we are one tenth apart in qualifying and we are close in the race all the time," he said. We put a lot of pressure on each other - we want to beat each other," he said.
"About next year I don't know - at the moment I'm focusing on racing, doing my job and making the team happy. If you drive fast and make everyone happy then there will be good opportunities. You don't need to like you team-mate but there has to be respect. There is that."
Ocon and Perez were pictured shaking hands in the paddock at Monza and the Mexican says they agreed in their one-on-one discussion on Thursday morning to start afresh.
"I went to Esteban's room and had a talk with him," said Perez.
"We basically said 'the engineers have their view, it's pointless going again through each of the incidents because everyone has their point to say, so let's move on together and forget the past'.
"I believe that a new relationship can start from now on and I really hope from now on we can work as a team."
Having previously threatened team orders, Force India chief Vijay Mallya said Perez and Ocon had been informed of a "new team policy" for Monza, with the drivers likely to have to stay in position when they are running directly line astern.
Ocon is fully aware there cannot be a repeat of Spa and expressed hope that he and Perez could soon prove to the team's management that they can race cleanly.
"We both crossed the line, that's for sure," said the Frenchman. "We touched so obviously something was wrong in there. I'm not going to argue because it's all behind now and we want to move forward, but for sure we crossed the line and we can't do that in the future for the team or for us.
"We need to get the bosses' trust back and maybe after some races they will let us race again."
Force India still hold a comfortable 58-point advantage over Williams in the Constructors' Championship with eight races to go - 13 more than the total their rivals have scored all season.
However, after costing the team around eight points at Spa, Perez stressed: "What we cannot afford is to lose more points. Things change really quickly in F1 and we see teams closing up on pace. Spa and Monza are probably the two strongest races for us and we need to make sure we score as many points as we can. It's not only about finishing fourth, it's how we do it."
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