Force India’s Perez, Ocon’s war continues with two Spa clashes (VIDEO)

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A pair of incidents between Sahara Force India teammates Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon occurred in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix, the latest for the two drivers that had also clashed in Montreal and Baku earlier this year.

On the start of the race, Perez moved to the right without checking his mirrors on Ocon, when trying to pass his old Force India teammate and now Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg.

Perez told NBCSN’s Will Buxton post-race he was entirely at fault for that incident. The start of the race is linked below.

However it was the second incident between the two of them that was the more important clash.

On the run out of La Source into Eau Rouge, Perez moved from the outside to the inside in the natural racing line, but Ocon saw a gap and went for it to Perez’s outside ahead of Eau Rouge.

That nearly put Ocon directly into the barrier and saw a collision between the two where Ocon’s left front wing end plate was sheared off and pierced Perez’s right rear tire, causing a puncture.

Both drivers spoke to NBCSN’s Buxton in the media bullpen. Here’s their comments:

Perez: “The first one was totally my fault. I didn’t select the start mode so didn’t have all the power on straight. Good start, then battling Hulkenberg, but I only had 50 percent of the power. So I thought I had a good margin and moved to right without looking at mirrors. 100 percent my fault. Really apologize for that one.

“The second one was a bit too optimistic for him to go there and make that maneuver. Both of us misjudged it a bit and ruined the race for the team. In the end I had massive damage and my car was too difficult to drive.

“(On the second incident), I saw him, he was there, but many drivers protect the line – that’s what I did. There was no room for him to go anywhere. We touched.

“I think today was a very ‘particular’ race. We definitely have to rewatch the incident. Mainly the second one, because the first one was totally my fault. It was not my best race. Otherwise not much to say.”

Ocon: “Well the first one I accepted. It’s start. It’s three-wide. Even if he saw me. The second one was way too much.

“Yeah. That’s just how not professional he is recently. I’ll speak to him. He thinks I’m a rookie and will stay behind. We risked our own lives for no reason.

“For sure not. It’s clear he didn’t leave me the space. It’s 300 kph… but put me into the wall. It’s clear to me. It’s clear to everyone else.

“He took a five-second penalty for the overall race and how aggressive he was. I will go man to man to see him and tell him the truth. I’m not going to be scared of him.

“It’s over out of the car, that’s for sure. In the car we race for Force India and we have to be professional drivers.”

Force India COO Otmar Szafnauer told Sky Sports in-race that after these two collisions, team orders are likely to be enforced going forward unless exceptional circumstances allow: “In the future they will never have that opportunity again.”

While both drivers sit seventh and eighth in points and the team is fourth in the Constructor’s Championship, this was not a good day for the team.

Ocon wound up finishing ninth, scoring two points, while Perez retired late with car damage.

Further videos will come shortly.

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

Photo: Getty Images
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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.