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Perez, Ocon look to move on from Spa clash after clear-the-air talks

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Force India Formula 1 drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon have held clear-the-air talks after clashing for the fourth race this season in Belgium last weekend, with both admitting to have done wrong.

Perez and Ocon touched twice on-track at Spa on Sunday, with the second collision leaving both drivers with damaged cars and costing the team a decent haul of points.

Force India’s team bosses looked dimly on the clash, confirming immediately after the race they would be implementing on-track orders to prevent the pair from colliding again, having warned the drivers after previous incidents in Canada, Azerbaijan and Hungary.

Speaking in Thursday’s FIA press conference ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, Perez confirmed that talks had been held earlier in the day in a bid to resolve the issue, with both drivers keen to put it behind them.

“I’ve had a really good conversation with him, personally, between him and me, and I think it’s time to move forwards,” Perez said.

“I think everyone has their opinion of what happened. The engineers have one opinion, the fans, us, have different opinions on what has been happening. But the most important thing is that from now on we move forward.

“The main objective as a team is to move forward in the constructors’, and we cannot afford to lose any more points. I think we’ve lost quite a lot of points in those races. We will move forward and I’m very sure that these things will not happen again.”

“What has happened before has happened. Now we can’t change what happened before,” Ocon added.

“We have to move forward. As Sergio was saying, we had a talk this morning together, just us two. It is time that we forget all of that and we work hard for the team.

“That’s what’s important, that’s what they deserve as well, that we behave as professionals, and we want to keep challenging the others, keep pushing them, and we have to keep that fourth place until the end.”

When asked if they had behaved as professionals, Ocon said: “I think we both crossed the line, that’s for sure. We touched, so of course, 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 purpose of the team, and even for us.”

Perez brushed off the suggestion that he would not be able to work with Ocon in the future, insisting there is no need for either driver to leave Force India to defuse the tension in the team.

“I think that’s not the way I look at things. I want to do the best for the current team that I am with, and I want to do the best results,” Perez said, having been linked with a move to Renault.

“I think we both know that we’ve done wrong in the past for this team. So my main target, I’m not thinking to run away.

“I think that working with Esteban is still possible, there still can be a successful partnership. I’m not thinking about moving elsewhere.”

Spencer Pigot ready for full-season IndyCar effort with ECR

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After spending the last two years in a part-time role with Ed Carpenter Racing, contesting the road and street course races in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, Spencer Pigot now gets a long-awaited chance at a full-season effort in 2018.

Moving over to the No. 21 entry, which has featured ECR’s full-season driver since 2016, Pigot has seen slight differences in his off-season prep ahead of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

“We were one of the teams that got to a handful of days testing the aero kit, so I obviously did all the running on the road courses, but I was able to do a few laps on the ovals when Ed was testing. So, that wouldn’t have happened (if I was part-time still),” he told NBC Sports.

However, outside of that increase in testing and a little learning some new tracks – he has not raced at ISM Raceway, Gateway Motorsports Park, Pocono Raceway, or Iowa Speedway in an IndyCar – the changes to Pigot’s off-season program have not been dramatic.

“There’s definitely some things I’ll need to learn, but as far as off-season prep: nothing too dramatic, nothing too different.”

Pigot’s first full-season campaign saw its first official outing of the 2018 season last weekend during the open test at ISM Raceway. While he and the ECR team struggled to find speed much of the weekend – they languished outside of the top ten in the results of the first three sessions – things took a turn for the better during the final session of the weekend on Saturday night, when Pigot ended up ninth on the speed charts.

He ended up 14th in the combined results for the weekend, noting that he and the team still want to find more outright speed.

“I thought throughout the test that our average long run pace was okay, but we were still missing the outright pace to be where we need to be come qualifying time,” he revealed. “I think that we definitely made a step forward Saturday night and definitely have a much better idea of a direction we can head and go with when we go back.”

In terms of long-run practice, Pigot noted that tire degradation became much more prevalent, which made running with others cars around you somewhat of a challenge. Though, he emphasized that tire degradation could be beneficial for racing.

“Talking to some of the other guys, it seems a little bit harder to run behind people as the tires go off because the tires are degrading pretty quick with the lack of downforce as well,” he explained. “So, it’s going to be tricky, it’s going to be sliding around a little bit more than what guys have experienced in the past. But, I think everyone’s under the same kind of idea that it’s going to be better racing, and especially at (ISM Raceway) it should be exciting.”

Pigot did get some practice at overtaking at ISM and got a feel for what he may be able to expect when IndyCar returns in April for the Phoenix Grand Prix, and while he acknowledged it was difficult to judge during testing, he did feel like he could run around other cars without much of an issue.

“It’s not like a race when everyone comes in the pits at the same time and you’re all on similar tires, so it’s kind of hard to know exactly. But, I thought we were pretty good,” he detailed. “I thought I was able to run pretty close to guys in front of me and was able to make a few passes when other guys made mistakes or might have gone a little high.”

The test also served as Pigot’s first IndyCar venture on a short oval – he last ran on a short oval in 2015 during his Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship season.

“The corners definitely come up quick. There’s not much time to really relax or think about too much,” Pigot quipped when describing his first time on a short oval.

He continued, “You’ve got to concentrate pretty hard on being precise because the line there is very narrow so you have to make sure that you’re where the grip is at all points throughout the corner. And then, when everyone’s out there and you run in traffic, it’s just like you’re constantly in a corner, so it’s a little more difficult to get big runs and drafts off people. But I think it’ll definitely play into the hands of guys that have their cars set up well and can be easier on the tires.”

And in becoming the team’s full-time driver, Pigot is seeing a slight increase in his leadership role within the team, especially as it relates to testing and development, with Pigot doing the lion’s share of testing during the winter on road courses.

But, he also emphasized the oval prowess of teammate, and team owner, Ed Carpenter as something he will lean on when he ventures out on other ovals for the first time this year.

“Especially as we’re trying to learn this new aero kit, I was the one that pretty much did all the testing on the road and street courses. It was kind of me and the engineers trying to develop the car and work towards the setup that’s going to work for us. So, there’s definitely a little more responsibility in that. But, then on the ovals, obviously Ed’s there and he’s a great teammate to have and to learn from and bounce ideas off of. But, yeah, it’s definitely a more involved role within the team,” Pigot explained.

Pigot and ECR will test two more times, at Barber Motorsports Park and Sebring International Raceway, in the month of February prior to the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 11.

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