Published On: Sun, Jun 10th, 2018

Force India explains Ocon/Hamilton Monaco F1 pass after complaints

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Force India has denied that Esteban Ocon was asked to let Lewis Hamilton by in Monaco as a favour to Mercedes, after rival Formula 1 teams complained to the FIA.

Hamilton dropped behind Ocon after an early pitstop in the Monaco Grand Prix, but Ocon offered no resistance when the Mercedes caught him up and allowed Hamilton through exiting the tunnel well before the chicane.

It has emerged that a number of teams contacted the FIA, suggesting there had been collusion between Mercedes and its engine customer.

Following an investigation into the circumstances of the matter, however, the governing body decided there was no merit in pursuing the case further.

Force India COO Otmar Szafnauer denied his team had helped Mercedes, and said it was simply focusing on its own strategy.

“We were running our own race, not against Lewis at the time,” said Szafnauer. “And we didn’t want to lose any time whatsoever.

“Alonso pitted just before and tried to undercut us, and what we didn’t want to do was lose any time at all with Lewis such that Alonso would have a chance to get us.

“Which is why we told Esteban not to lose any time to Lewis. If you’re racing in your mirrors, you don’t go as fast.

“Even if it’s a couple of tenths a lap, it’s too much. And when you’re really close with some guy trying to undercut you, you can’t do it.

“What you can do is hold him [Hamilton] back for five, six, seven laps, he gets you anyway, but now you’ve lost out to Lewis, and you’ve lost out to the guy you’re really racing.”

Technical director Andy Green insisted it was standard practice for Force India drivers not to fight faster cars in such circumstances.

“We do it all the time,” said Green. “When a fast car is coming through, we recognise that we’re not racing with them, and we don’t.

“We lose the minimum amount of time. Sometimes you can lose two seconds a lap when you’re trying to defend.

“Go back to race one in Melbourne. I think you’ll find that a Mercedes drove through Esteban in the race.

“There was no contact from us to him. He knew he didn’t need to lose time with a Mercedes going through, he lost the minimum amount of time. We said nothing on the radio to him.”

Ocon stressed he knew there was no point in resisting Hamilton.

“I was surprised that it became that much of a story, probably because there was no proper explanation after the race,” he told Autosport.

“It was not my race, Lewis had a 20-second advantage over me, had pitted already, [had] fresh tyres.

“I didn’t want to lose time over [Pierre] Gasly and Fernando behind. That was my race at that moment.

“If it was a straight fight it would have been a different situation. I would have fought fairly with Lewis, there would have been no issues.”

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