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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez need to tone down their civil war at Force India if they want to avoid gaining negative reputations in F1

Pair need to heed warning from team bosses after latest coming together in Belgium on Sunday.

Force India drivers Esteban Ocon, left, and Sergio Perez, right, came together during the Belgian Grand Prix. Mark Thompson / Getty Images
Force India drivers Esteban Ocon, left, and Sergio Perez, right, came together during the Belgian Grand Prix. Mark Thompson / Getty Images

This should be a time of celebration for Force India. With eight races of the season remaining until the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix concludes the season on November 26, the team are on course to match their best finish of fourth place in the Formula One constructors' championship.

They have 103 points, 58 more than fifth-placed Williams, and have established themselves as best of the rest behind the leading trio of Ferrari, Mercedes-GP and Red Bull Racing.

Yet a black cloud hangs over them from Sunday's Belgium Grand Prix. For the fourth time this season their drivers, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, had a public falling out.

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They collided twice at Spa-Francorchamps, the second the more serious of the two incidents, as Perez squeezed Ocon on the exit of the La Source hairpin and on the run down towards Eau Rouge, with the contact breaking Ocon's front wing and puncturing Perez's right rear tyre.

What should have been another double points finish ended up with Ocon ninth and Perez eventually retiring.

It comes after the pair threw away a possible race win in Azerbaijan in June, where it was Ocon who did not leave Perez enough room, and in Canada, where they missed out on a podium to the slower Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo as Perez aggressively blocked his teammate.

They also touched in Hungary, so it is hardly surprising that Force India's chief operating officer Otmar Szafnuer has warned the pair they risk being dropped for future races if there are further collisions, and that they will not be allowed to race freely when they are on the same stretch of track as each other.

You can understand the team's point of view; a number of points have been frittered away through their drivers costing each other time, or even parts of their car, with their own focus on beating each other.

It is also embarrassing. It might make for great entertainment to the viewing public, but the reason Force India have not scored a podium finish this year is because of the civil war engulfing the team.

Both men were running ahead of Ricciardo in Azerbaijan before they collided. Given that the Australian went on to win, the chance of a first win in F1 was wasted.

Chances like that do not come around very often. You have to go back to Australia 2013 and Kimi Raikkonen's win for Lotus for the last time that a team that was not Red Bull, Mercedes or Ferrari won a race.

Perez and Ocon's infighting may not be hurting their position in the drivers' championship, but it is hurting their reputations, particularly Perez.

We are entering the silly season of the F1 drivers' transfer market and both men have been linked with other teams. But if you were a prospective team owner you would be wondering what you were taking on if the driver you were interested in was being publicly rebuked by their current boss for being unable to race without hitting their teammate.

Ocon, 20, is the young charger in his first full season in F1, so he can be forgiven somewhat, put it down to inexperience. He also gains a lot of credit for pushing a considerably more experienced driver in Perez, 27, as hard as he has done.

Perez on the otherhand has not exactly covered himself in glory. He was slower than Ocon in Canada and his refusal to move aside for his young teammate potentially denied the team a podium place.

Ocon was at fault in Azerbaijan for the collision, but Perez was completely at fault in Belgium and a man in his seventh season of F1 should know better.

Perez has already had a run with a top team. At McLaren in 2013, it did not go well for the Mexican. It was not all down to him, as he joined a team whose race-winning form evaporated, but his driving was messy, with a number of mistakes and clashes with other cars blighting his time with the British team.

That side of Perez had disappeared of late, but suddenly being under pressure and having a younger teammate, who is matching him on pace, appears to have brought back the worst facets of his driving.

He has been linked with Renault for 2018, and also had hopes of joining Ferrari, but right now he has no chance of a shot at another top team.

The young Frenchman Ocon still has time on his side still, but coming out on social media and in public and claiming Perez tried to "kill me" was not the smartest play, and screamed of immaturity, which hopefully, for his sake, he will move on from quickly.

Both Perez and Ocon have a good points-winning car beneath them, and starting in Italy on Sunday, they need to prove to themselves, their team, and the rest of F1 that they are capable of racing cleanly and working together.