Racking up an impressive ten points finishes in the first 11 races of the 2017 season, Esteban Ocon has had an astonishing start to his first full year in Formula 1, with only Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, and Valtterri Bottas equaling or beating his number of finishes inside the points in 2017. The strong set of results that Ocon has produced for Force India has left the Frenchman in eighth in the Drivers' Championship with 45 points. The year has not been plain sailing all the time however, and a rivalry is beginning to emerge between Ocon and his team mate, Sergio Perez.
When asked about his preparations for 2017 and the expectations of Force India in an interview with Formula 1's official website, Ocon compared himself to his team mate: "I have a lot less experience than Sergio [Perez] so I have to catch up on so many details that come naturally to him," he said "Before and after each race I am mostly in the factory for simulator work. I think that is what makes a big difference," continuing on to say that he puts in more time than Perez in preparation.
Ocon also reflected on the first half of his 2017 campaign, talking about his highlights of the season." My personal best race was Canada. There I was feeling the best," he said. The Canadian Grand Prix however, marked the beginning of a tense period between himself and Perez however, when Force India refused to enforce team orders which may have cost Ocon his maiden F1 podium.
These tensions came to a head in Azerbaijan when both Ocon and Perez collided with one another, which, according to Perez, cost him the race win and ended his points finishing streak of 15 races. Talking about the conversation after the race with Force India, Ocon said that "We ended his 15-race scoring streak! We! I went to the factory right afterwards and the team said that it was a race incident and that we both made mistakes.
"Of course that shouldn’t happen – but a race on such a track is close to a state of emergency," he added. "We have been told that we should be more careful in the future as it was not only his fault or only my fault. End of story."
Asked if he thinks that he has been a big surprise to Perez this season, Ocon simply replied: "I am not here to stay behind him all the time. I want to push – very hard."
When F1 returns after the summer break, the 2017 season will resume in Belgium where Ocon intends to hit the ground running having already completed the second half of the calendar last season when racing for Manor. It is without doubt that he will want to take the fight to Perez to try and depose his team mate from seventh in the championship whilst also aiming to bag his first F1 podium in his rookie season.