The 2014 Canadian GP had so many incidents, and as usual my emotions were all over the place. However, when Sergio Perez had his incident with Felipe Massa - I was unusually not too annoyed.
Nico Hulkenberg once again demonstrated why he is one of the better drivers on the grid by keeping the Red Bull drivers behind for so long. This is not the first time we have seen Nico maintain a position under intense pressure; I honestly now believe that he is the best defensive driver on the grid, bar none.
The real positive for me though was the performance from Sergio Perez. Let me provide an extract of what I wrote about Sergio before the season began:
"In 2013 though, I think he made a big mistake. He signed for McLaren which is great, a massive opportunity! However he did an interview before that season began saying that now he's at a "top team" he needs to be more aggressive in the car. My question is, why? He did a great job in 2012 [for Sauber], why change your attitude in 2013? This aggressiveness is exactly what cost him in 2013 - he had a few incidents with his team mate (Button), he lost his edge with tyre conservation and he seemed to be simply trying too hard; ultimately finishing 29 points behind Button in the championship. Now he has left McLaren, I hope he'll go back to his more relaxed attitude that he had at Sauber. Our team principal, Vijay Mallya, appears to be developing a reputation for developing young talent (di Resta, Hulkenberg, Calado) and now he will work his magic with Sergio too."
... and what did we see from Sergio in Canada? A calm, measured drive, resisting the urge to drive as fast as possible in order to save the tyres. In fact, he did just under half the race on super-soft tyres, that really is an incredible achievement and something that we got used to seeing him do back in his Sauber days. If he keeps this approach up, he will end up having a fantastic 2014 season.
Force India did lose eight points as a result of the incident with Massa (Sergio was 4th, losing 12 points, but Nico was promoted from 7th to 5th, gaining 4 points), and naturally that is disappointing - but long-term, our drivers are looking very strong so we have every right to look back at the Canadian GP and be happy.
It's all a matter of perspective.
Everybody in the Formula One community has been giving their opinion on the clash between Massa and Perez. Actually, I have been watching the sport since 1996 and I can not remember a debate quite like this one. It seems anyone is prepared to strongly state their views from pundits to journalists. Even the teams and drivers themselves got involved in the debate over social media.
Before I give my opinion I must state that I have been feeling quite unusual about the situation. I am caught in the middle, possibly more so than anybody else because obviously I am a massive Force India fan - but many of you may not know that I do currently work for Williams in their Hybrid Power division. This makes apportioning blame a little awkward, but I'll be honest nonetheless.
The first thing I want to state about the incident is that many people have been saying Sergio turned left into Felipe. This is factually incorrect. Take a look at the steering wheel on-board with Sergio, at no point does he turn left. The car does veer left, but that's because Sergio comes off the corner at an angle, the steering wheel remains straight at all times. As for Felipe's steering wheel, he does turn to the right - this is a fact, as demonstrated below by the picture that Sergio posted on instagram.
Sergio bravely elected to brake at the usual point, while his car was angled and veering to the left. He will have argued to the stewards that he was veering left to avoid crashing into Vettel should the brakes fail. That is a perfectly understandable and instinctual decision. It was unfortunate for him that at the same time, Massa decided to turn right to take a normal line through the bend - with one veering left and one turning right - a crash was inevitable.
So what have we learned so far about this incident? At the moment it seems like no-one was to blame, Sergio was veering to the left, but his reasoning was to avoid crashing into Vettel which is understandable, and he probably would get the benefit of the doubt.
If that's the case, why was Sergio penalised with a five-place grid penalty for the Austrian GP? The killer blow for Sergio was that although he had a valid reason to maintain his straight path and continue to veer left, his trajectory is such that even if Felipe did not hit him, he probably would have still hit Vettel anyway (in the event his brakes failed), albeit further round the corner. Therefore his reason for not following a normal line becomes invalid. The ironic thing is that if he had turned completely to the left, to avoid the path of Vettel totally, then he would still receive a penalty for the collision with Massa - probably a bigger penalty actually. The only way Sergio could have avoided a penalty in that situation would be to stick to the racing line and hope his brakes work, or turn to the right and end up on the grass, possibly hitting the barriers - a very unfortunate situation. At this point, some people may say that Felipe had lots of space on the left, if he was going to try and pass, why not use all that space? The response to that question is fairly straight-forward, he doesn't have to. Felipe is entitled to place his car where he likes and it is well within the rules to squeeze Sergio to the edge of the track. Sadly for him, Sergio did not follow the track to the right as anticipated.
It is harsh by the stewards, but hopefully this clears up exactly why the stewards came to this conclusion. You may not necessarily agree with the decision, but you should be able to at least understand they're coming from - Sergio's argument of trying to avoid Vettel was invalid. What I would like to add is that sometimes a decision may seem unusual based on what we have seen, but it must always be remembered that the stewards are the only people who have access to all the data from all the teams. They are the ones with all the information, and they are the only ones who can make an informed decision - so any conclusions they make for an incident really can not be questioned - we need to trust in their decision.
Force India are not happy, Sergio Perez is not happy - but the thing to focus on is the wonderful performance the team gave in Canada, it was a good race for us. Again, it's all about perspective.
Thanks for reading,