Force India: Rival teams came knocking

Date published: February 8 2018

Force India have revealed that rival teams, both “bigger and smaller”, made approaches for some of their key staff after yet another stellar campaign.

Last year, for the second season running, Force India finished fourth in the Constructors’ Championship.

It was another incredible result for the Silverstone team, who operate on less than half the budget of some of the sport’s biggest teams.

“We’ve had bigger and smaller teams approach us and try to usurp some of our key personnel,” chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer told RACER. “But I’m happy to report that going into the new season we’ll have the same and we’ve added a few in some key areas as well.

“There’s always potential in every team – that’s how this business works. The better you do the more others will look at how you’re doing it and try to emulate or usurp some of your key employees.”

Szafnauer added that he believes the consistency in team personnel is a big boost for Force India.

“We have made a few small changes on the track engineering side,” he said. “We’ve bolstered our CFD capabilities as well.

“But I think most importantly the longer we have a stable team the more some of those weaknesses go away naturally because we retain our knowledge and we build on our success of years past. We don’t lose our knowledge of how we got there and we build on that to become better.

“So I think one of the keys to our success is stability in key personnel, and we’ve been able to have a pretty uninterrupted winter from a personnel perspective. That includes drivers.”

Wolff ‘bothered’ by Ocon and Perez

Date published: February 5 2018

Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez did not do themselves any favours with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff as he was “bothered” and “annoyed” by last season’s clashes.

The Force India team-mates offered one of the best intra-team battles of 2017 as they refused to give an inch when racing one another.

This led to several tangles with Force India eventually banning them from racing by imposing strict team orders.

It is something that Wolff over at Mercedes is used to as he experienced it with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

The team boss, though, says it doesn’t interest him at all.

“What bothers us are these intra-team rivalries that end with two damaged cars,” he told

“This applies not only to Esteban, but also to Checo [Perez].

“As a team boss, I’m so annoyed by that.”

Wolff was, however, impressed with Ocon’s progress throughout the 2017 campaign and expects even more from the Mercedes protege this coming season.

“Esteban performed very well this year against a very strong Sergio Perez,” he added.

“Next year he has to take the next step and improve this performance. He is incredibly consistent, makes few mistakes and has great speed.

“Next year, he will have to develop further in this respect and outperform Perez.”

Force India: Ocon as good as Verstappen

Date published: January 8 2018

Force India believe that in Esteban Ocon they have a driver that is “every bit as good” as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Although much of the focus in Formula 1 has been on Verstappen and his sensational drives, Ocon demonstrated in his first year that he too could be a force to be reckoned with.

The Frenchman made his debut in 2017 with Force India, scoring points in his very first race.

That, though, was just the start.

He finished inside the top ten in all but two races and didn’t retire from a single event until the penultimate grand prix of the season in Brazil.

Added to that his ballsy racing against team-mate Sergio Perez caught the eye of pundits who feel that the Mercedes protégé could be a star of the future along with Red Bull’s Verstappen.

And that is a sentiment that Otmar Szafnauer, Force India’s Chief Operating Officer, agrees with.

He told Sky Sports: “It’s hard to know because they are driving different cars. But Max has signed a big contract with Red Bull and we’ve probably got Ocon for a hundredth of the price.

“I think Esteban is every bit as good. The first time we ran Esteban in the car we knew he was something special.

“He understands the car really well. He’s got great car control and because of it he can get to the limit very quickly and then he describes what he feels. He also knows what he wants from the car, which is very mature for his age.”

He added: “I think his biggest achievement is his continuous improvement. From where he started 2017 to where he is now, he’s improved in many aspects and I think because of that he’s scored in all-but two races and continues to push Checo. On any given Saturday we don’t know who is going to out-qualify who.”

Ocon, though, does not belong to Force India but rather is with the team on a loan deal from Mercedes with Szafnauer conceding that it could be just a matter of time before they want the driver back.

“Sometimes leasing is better than buying. They might have him back and I think the better he does, the more likelihood of him stepping up to a Mercedes role at some point but for now he’s with us. We’ll see what the future holds but I think he will continue to improve.”

Perez, Ocon ‘matured enough’ to race again

Date published: January 5 2018

Force India are ready to let Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon go wheel-to-wheel again after being forced to introduce team orders during the 2017 season.

Perez and Ocon began to lose the team valuable points in their pursuit of fourth place in the World Constructors’ Championship and, after one collision too many, were under strict instruction not to fight each other on track any more.

However, with a new season on the horizon, COO Otmar Szafnauer has said the team are prepared to give them another chance, believing they have both learned their lesson.

“The drivers have got a better understanding and have matured enough so that they know and we know how to behave,” Szafnauer told Autosport.

“So next year it should be a lot better.”

Reflecting on the decision to introduce team orders last season, Szafnauer ultimately feels that Force India got the timing right given that they went on to secure their overall goal of fourth place.

“It’s funny because you get criticised if you do and criticised if you don’t,” added Szafnauer.

“Some of the media were critical as they said ‘you should’ve got on top of it earlier’.

“We were letting them race and when we did get on top of it they were saying ‘oh they can’t race anymore’.

He continued: “Looking back did we strike the balance at the right place? Probably as we’ve got fourth [in the constructors’ championship].

“At the time I thought we could lose out because the drivers were often coming together and we were losing out on points.

“In Baku we lost something like 33 points and at that point it was so early in the season that I didn’t know or could predict we would be fourth.

“Now if you look back you could say we struck the balance at the right point as we let them race and then after Spa we said ‘let’s not’.”

Ocon: Merc happy with my performance

Date published: January 2 2018

Esteban Ocon is determined to remain focused on his job at Force India during the 2018 season despite receiving a good progress report from Mercedes.

The Frenchman is part of the Mercedes driver development programme and this campaign marked his first full year in Formula 1.

He enjoyed an excellent season with Force India finishing eighth in the standings, only one place behind his more experienced team-mate Sergio Perez, while he also secured a top 10 position in 18 of the 20 races.

Naturally his bosses at Merc were pleased with his debut campaign.

“Force India are happy with the job I’m doing and also Mercedes are happy with what I’m doing,” the 21-year-old told Autosport.

“So if everyone is happy, I just have to continue and do everything I can.”

Being part of the junior programme means there is always talk about being promoted to the factory outfit, but Ocon is not getting ahead of himself and just focusing on the job at Force India.

“If Force India is happy and Mercedes is happy, there will be plenty of opportunities in the future,” he said.

“If you do a strong job, there will always be opportunities.

“You need to focus on the job you’re doing on track and the job you’re doing with the engineers.

“I’m fully trusting my management with Mercedes, I know they have always done a good job for me and good choices.”

Ocon sought Mercedes advice over Perez

Date published: December 23 2017

Esteban Ocon has revealed that he asked Mercedes for advice on how to deal with his team-mate Sergio Perez.

Ocon and Perez were involved in a number of feisty clashes in 2017 and left Force India with no choice but to implement team orders to stop them from losing precious points.

The Frenchman is still part of Mercedes’ driver programme and when the going got tough between him and Perez, he wanted the Silver Arrows to draw upon their experience of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to help him deal with the testing situation.

“It was probably the first thing I did was to call him [Mercedes boss Toto Wolff] and see how they dealt with Lewis and Nico back then,” Ocon told

“Definitely I asked for advice and they [Mercedes] were there to help me. I had their point of view, I had Force India’s point of view.

“It’s always helpful to get different point of views, but especially from Mercedes. They are world champions so they know what they are talking about.

“I can’t go into detail [about the advice] but it was just a good help. You take it because it’s always good advice.”

Ocon also said that while he and Perez and not the best of friends, they get on well enough now to be trusted to race each other again.

He added:“It’s important we have respect for each other and it’s important for the team that there is a good atmosphere and we work together to develop the car correctly.

“We are maybe not going to go on holidays together, but we get along well.”

Perez: Force India must relax team orders

Date published: December 21 2017

Sergio Perez believes Force India cannot afford to bring team orders into effect again next season with the threat of a resurgence from both Renault and McLaren.

Force India were once again the fourth-best team in Formula 1 behind the main trio of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, but their points haul could have been even better had Perez and Esteban Ocon not been involved in a series of collisions.

Team officials were left with no option but to stop their two drivers from racing each other, but Perez said that it will be very important for them to be able to race freely next season.

“We have got to understand how difficult it is going to be next year,” Perez told

“We’ll have the Renaults and McLarens pushing us hard. So we need to push freely if we are to be in the fight.

“We also need to have a car that is competitive from the beginning, to be in the fight from the start and be in the fight for the season.”

Perez also revealed that he now has a better working relationship with Ocon following their high-speed clash at the famous Raidillon-Eau Rouge section at Spa.

“We hit a very low point on our relationship in Belgium,” he added. “But things have got a lot better since then.

“We’re working professionally. We know we work for a team and we have to do the best for them, especially for next year.

“It’s going to be a massive challenge, given the competition and threat from bigger teams which have struggled.”

Perez then concluded by praising Ocon for how quickly he has adapted to Formula 1 and how quick he has proven to be.

“Esteban came to F1 really well prepared with his experience in the previous categories and relationships with F1 teams,” said Perez. “So that was good for us.

“Every driver’s personality is different. Certainly Esteban is someone who can be quick. He understands what he needs and that is important. He’s been on it this year.”