July 3, 2017 / 10:23 AM / 2 years ago

Motor racing: Force India drivers reminded that the team comes first

LONDON (Reuters) - Force India co-owner Vijay Mallya has reminded drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon that the team must take priority after a collision at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix wrecked hopes of a first win in Formula One.

Formula One - F1 - Azerbaijan Grand Prix - Baku, Azerbaijan - June 23, 2017. Techniques remove a damaged car of Force India's driver Sergio Perez after a crash during the first practice session. Picture taken with a fisheye lens. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov

The Indian said they would be allowed to continue racing without the need to be reined in, however.

“It’s still frustrating to ponder what might have been had things played out differently,” Mallya said in a preview for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg, the race following on from Baku.

“Since Baku we’ve had some conversations internally and reminded our drivers that the team must always come first. It’s never acceptable for team mates to make contact with each other and it certainly cost us points in Baku,” added Mallya.

“However, the events of Azerbaijan won’t change our approach. Our drivers can race freely and I’m sure they have learned some valuable lessons ... I know they are mature enough to work together for the good of the team.”

Force India, currently fourth overall in the constructors’ championship, have yet to win a race since Mallya arrived in 2008 and renamed a team that had gone through various previous guises as Jordan, Midland and Spyker.

They have come close, with a pole position and second place in Belgium in 2009 with Italian Giancarlo Fisichella, and four third places for Mexican Perez since he joined in 2014.

In Azerbaijan, Perez and French rookie Ocon were fighting for a podium spot when they collided. Ocon suffered a puncture and significant car damage but continued to finish sixth.

Perez initially retired, before the race was stopped and then re-started due to debris on the track caused by the Force India collision.

Of the cars ahead of them at the time, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton lost the lead after pitting to fix a loose headrest while Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was handed a 10 second stop and go penalty and finished fourth.

“Vettel got his penalty due to that restart, so we would have beaten him. And (Red Bull’s eventual winner Daniel) Ricciardo we would have beaten,” said chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer after the race.

“But without us causing the red flag, Hamilton’s headrest wouldn’t have come up, so he would have won it. So, would have, could have, should have ... we still would have been second or third.”

Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Mark Potter

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