Both Perez and Racing Point Force India were on a bit of a high coming into Singapore, both Perez and teammate Ocon had scored 16 points each in the two previous weekends and Force India had a long-awaited upgrade package arriving for Singapore.
The team had climbed from last to seventh in the constructors standings in just two races and their drivers were in the form of their lives. Perez was also on the verge of signing a new contract with the team, or announcing it depending on what stories you believe but Singapore saw the team walk away pointless and with Perez doing everything to hurt his reputation.
Qualifying saw both Force India’s qualify 7th and 9th with Perez ahead of Grosjean by 0.4 tenths of a second and effectively finding himself on pole for the “Class B” championship. The race would be a far departure from their fine qualifying, both Force India’s got off the line quickly but soon scrapped with one another at turn 3, Ocon attempted to overtake Perez in an optimistic move around the outside but Perez ran wide pushing his teammate into the wall and taking him out of the race. The incident itself was controversial for many reasons; firstly Perez and Ocon have history, they collided numerous times in 2017 before the team had to impose strict rules on them forbidding them to race one another. Another was that it cost them many potential points when they don’t have many races to catch McLaren for 6th in the constructors, lastly it appeared after looking at Perez’s onboard camera that he knew that Ocon was on the outside and that he intentionally squeezed his teammate, the replay showed Perez open his steering making no real attempt to keep a tight line. The stewards however deemed it a racing incident but still leaving the team bitterly disappointed and angry.
“It’s unacceptable for them to come together like that in an area where there’s no run-off room. If it’s your teammate, you’ve got to give them room” said Otmar Szafnauer, Racing Point Force India Team Principal.
Perez would the be racing with the Renault’s, Grosjean and Alonso who made a great start for 11th. All except Sainz and Alonso would make an early stop with they Hyper Softs losing a lot of grip but this put them behind a very slow Sergey Sirotkin whose car lacked pace all weekend. Perez would spend the first half of the race behind Sirotkin and lost more than a pit stop over Sainz and Alonso who were able to run long on their Ultra Softs. Perez was very vocal over team radio calling for race direction to move Sirotkin over complaining that he was overly aggressive in his defending. Race direction disagreed meaning Perez would have to make the move on track, after several botched attempts he looked like he would make it stick into turn 18 but he moved over to cover the Williams to early and banged into the side of the Russian. Perez earned himself a drive-through penalty, 3 penalty points on his licence and a puncture for good measure. Many were calling the move deliberate and perhaps reminiscent of Vettel’s wheel banging with Hamilton last year, it was perhaps more severe than that as this was at racing speed as opposed to behind the safety car.
A lot of people are calling for a race ban on the Mexican driver for perceived road rage, after all Perez is not a rookie and should know better than to crash into the side of another car. I think the penalty is fair enough and given Perez’s history it is unlikely that he did this intentionally, this is also the view of race director Charlie Whiting.
“But it’s hard to believe a driver would intend to hit a car. He’d been trying hard to get past Sirotkin, and he looked a little bit frustrated, and I just think he misjudged how far in front he was in front of him.”
One thing is for certain; Singapore is a weekend for both driver and team to forget, Perez has taken his penalty and needs to move on, Russia is the next race in the calendar and Perez has claimed a podium there before, the car is looking competitive and he will have more chances of scoring points.
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