Force India looking for Ocon to improve 'racecraft'

Esteban Ocon, Force India, Italian Grand Prix

On the face of it, you wouldn't expect there to be much to criticise Esteban Ocon about as he nears the end of his first full season in Formula 1.

The Frenchman made his Grand Prix début with Manor last year at Spa. He moved to Force India at the start of 2017, and has finished all 16 of his races with the team to date. On top of that, he's only been out of the points once.

As a result he's currently in eighth in the drivers championship, one place behind his more experienced team mate Sergio Perez. However the two have clashed on several occasions during the season, forcing the team to introduce team orders.

Even so, deputy team principal Bob Fernley insisted that the combative partnership between the pair was largely a positive one.

"He's fortunate to have a very, very good teammate," Fernely said of Ocon. "[Perez] is an absolute out and-out-racer, who keeps him very, very focussed," Fernley said.

"He's still got a little bit to learn in terms of racecraft," Fernley added. "That's where he benefits from having Checo around him.

"He is getting better," Fernley admitted. "On out-and-out pace he's there, but he's young, and he's still got a little bit to go."

Ocon beat his team mate in Suzuka, but he also lost out during the race to Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen. That prevented him from competing for a podium finish.

However, Ocon himself described the outcome as the best that he could have hoped for on the day.

"We had nothing to be scared of behind, nothing to gain in front," commented the 21-year-old. "That was the maximum we could have done.

Fernley had no criticism of his drivers' performances in Japan. "For us it was a textbook race," he said. "We just delivered.

"The entire team can be proud of our performance," he continued. "We’ve had the fourth quickest car yet again and took the fight to the teams ahead of us.

"Esteban’s opening lap was magnificent," he added. "He muscled his way ahead of Ricciardo and ran as high as third in the early stages of the race.

"It's a good step in the right direction. We've just got to keep hard at it."

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