Did Sergio Perez kiss the Ferrari seat goodbye in the Canadian Grand Prix?
By flouting team orders and keeping his interests above his team, did Sergio Perez cost himself a chance to drive for Ferrari?
So this happened during the later stages of the Canadian Grand Prix,
Lap 52 (Team radio)
From Ocon: I can probably pass Ricciardo.
Team to Perez: Checo, Esteban is pushing, saying he can overtake Ricciardo if given the chance. So do what you can.
From Perez: Yeah, Ricciardo will deg off in a couple of laps.
Lap 57 (Team radio)
Team to Perez: Checo at the end of this lap we would like to give you three laps to attack Ricciardo. Otherwise, we will have to switch. Ferraris are closing.
From Perez: It’s a waste of time, man. Ricciardo is degging off. I want the chance to overtake him. I mean, let us race, man. Please.
Team to Perez: Checo the plan is we want to attack before the Ferraris arrive behind us so we are on that plan. If we switch and Ocon couldn’t get past we would switch back
From Perez: Ricciardo, I want the chance to go into the lapped cars. Just leave me alone now. Give me the chance now. We will pick up some traffic. There will be an opportunity
At the end of it all, Sebastian Vettel was able to overtake Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez (it could have been both Kimi and Vettel had Kimi’s brakes not given up). Ocon wasn’t able to have a shot at the podium while Force India missed out on their first podium of the season.
After the race, the paddock sentiment was pretty much unanimous in the sense that everyone thought that Force India lost out on a podium and maybe more points because of Perez not heeding his team's orders. Ocon concurred with the view that he would have been on the podium had he been allowed to swap positions with Perez. In so many ways, the consequence of his actions might be a bit far-fetched for Perez as many think it is his time to jump ship to a bigger team.
Teams are watching
On the Formula One paddock, every move, every grimace and every step you take is monitored. Especially if one of your prospective future teams is Ferrari. It’s no secret that Kimi Raikkonen might be out of favour by the end of this season and Ferrari would be on the lookout for a possible replacement. Perez is one of the top runners if not the top runner because of his performances in the recent past.
This is where his actions in Canada come under the scanner. No team, especially Ferrari, would want a driver to put their personal interests above the team when a better team result is possible. Sebastian Vettel, a 4-time champion, had to swap positions with Daniel Ricciardo in 2014 whilst at Redbull Racing, because a better result was possible for the team. He did so despite being the most successful driver at the time.
Esteban Ocon has been rated very highly by many teams up and down the grid. Lest we forget, he he beat Max Verstappen in their junior days. Ocon’s steady improvement despite just being a rookie is something praiseworthy.
Despite being overshadowed 1-6 in qualifying, the gap between the two teammates while racing has been minimal in the last four races. The two occupy the seventh and eighth positions in the drivers standings and Ocon’s slow start is picking up steam as he has finished behind his teammate in the last four races and is pushing for the ascendancy.
Perez’s stature on the grid
Perez is considered a solid driver by many on the grid but no more is he considered in the same class as Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso or even a Daniel Ricciardo or Max Verstappen. He’s someone who will bring in a good haul of points to the team. But bringing in championships? His stint at Mclaren didn't help and even though he was able to beat Hulkenberg in 2 out of 3 seasons at Force India, there were many races where the Hulk would just dominate Perez and then there many races where it did seem evident that Hulk was just tired of being part of Force India.
He has been producing great results with Force India this year but again Ocon - a rookie - has been right on his heels and there isn't much to choose between the two now. In this scenario, teams would look at Perez to do the kind of role that Kimi and Bottas are doing for their teams and a more disciplined driver is what they would be looking for if they do opt for Perez.
Considering everything, it does seem as if Perez shot himself in the foot by not swapping places with Ocon at Canada and if Ferrari does look at options to replace Kimi, this incident at Canada will do the Mexican no favours.
Will they look at it as a sign of a champion or will they treat it as a blatant disregard of team orders is something that is up for speculation. But if Perez is not the frontrunner for a seat available at one of the top teams later this year then this could be one of the reasons behind that.