Formula 1

Otmar Szafnauer: “A disappointing French Grand Prix” for Force India

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Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Sahara Force India F1 Team chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer has described Sunday’s Formula 1 French Grand Prix as “disappointing”  after a double DNF for the team.

Home driver Esteban Ocon and team-mate Sergio Pérez both dropped out of the 53-lap race at Circuit Paul Ricard before Lap 30 after a collision and water leak, respectively. 

Ocon was hit by fellow Frenchman Romain Grosjean on the run to Turn 1, before Red Bull Toro Rosso-Honda driver Pierre Gasly hit the right-rear of Ocon’s car, eliminating both on the first lap.

From 13th on the grid, Pérez was running well and in contention to score points to aid Force India in its bid to once again finish fourth in the constructors’ championship.

However, on Lap 27, a sudden drop in water pressure led to the team calling him in to retire, as to not cause any damage to the new, upgraded Mercedes power unit.

It’s not really been our weekend,” said Szafnauer. “Seeing both cars retire from the race concludes a disappoiting French Grand Prix. 

Esteban’s race was very short, and he was simply the innocent victim of other drivers’ mistakes. The hit from [Romain] Grosjean on the pit straight was totally unnecessary and unexpected, and caused significant damage to the floor of the car. 

“[He was] then hit by [Pierre] Gasly [and that] caused even more damage and put Esteban out on the spot.”

Szafnauer confirmed that the team was still investigated the “root cause” of the leak which ended Pérez’s race.

He said: “Sergio escaped most of the opening lap carnage and was fighting for points until there was a rapid water pressure drop. We are still investigating this issue.”

After eight rounds of the 2018 season, Force India currently sits in sixth place in the constructors’ championship on 28 points.

The majority of the points haul came as a result of the podium scored by Pérez in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

As a result the Mexican is in 12th place in the drivers’ championship on 17 points, six ahead of Ocon who lies 13th heading into the second leg of the first-ever F1 triple-header in Austria this coming weekend.

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Jake Nichol is a motorsport journalist writing about the Formula 1 world championship for The Checkered Flag. He is currently freelancing for Autosport, where his work includes IndyCar, NASCAR and UK-wide national race meetings.
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