JUNE 13, 2017

Perez denies ignoring team order

Mercedes chiefs think rival team Force India made a mistake in Montreal.

Mercedes chiefs think rival team Force India made a mistake in Montreal.

Actually, the mistake may have been made by Sergio Perez alone, after he arguably cost his own teammate Esteban Ocon a podium on Sunday by refusing to obey team orders.

But Mexican Perez denies he was actually asked to let Ocon go in Montreal.

"It was not a team order, but a discussion on the radio," he said. "I told the team my arguments, and they accepted them."

Amid rumours Perez might be lured to Renault for 2017, Force India backed Perez's account.

Deputy boss Bob Fernley also said the controversy is a sign of the Silverstone based team's growing status.

"Suddenly we're having problems that only the top teams have," he told Auto Motor und Sport. "We are being observed more closely."

But at reigning champions Mercedes, team chairman Niki Lauda thinks Perez was clearly in the wrong.

"They gave Vettel a better result," he is quoted by Finland's Ilta Sanomat newspaper. "Perez was selfish."

Mercedes may be right to criticise Perez, given that the Force India shenanigans arguably helped Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel to finish fourth.

"This season is so important to score points and Ferrari had a bit of luck that the two Force Indias were doing crazy things," team boss Toto Wolff told Italy's Sky.

But Force India sees another silver lining.

"We gave Esteban half a year to acclimatise, and before the first half of the season he is closer and closer to Sergio," said sporting boss Otmar Szafnauer.

"It shows that we have chosen the right driver."

And Wolff, also the boss of the Mercedes junior programme, agrees, telling Le Journal de Montreal: "He (Ocon) has a bright future ahead of him."