Force India’s chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer says the team’s rules of engagement between drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon will continue to remain relaxed for the start of the 2018 season.

After a number of high-profile clashes between its two drivers, which came to a head at last year’s Belgian Grand Prix when both drivers sustained damage in a collision, Force India enforced rules against racing one another.

For the resulting races the driver who had the better track position was allowed to stay in front with the other told not to overtake his teammate. After Force India secured a second consecutive fourth place in the F1 world constructors’ championship by the Mexican Grand Prix, the pair were allowed to race each other again for the final two races.

Szafnauer says the driver rules between Perez and Ocon will remain the same going into the 2018 F1 season but with a warning of rules of engagement returning if similar on-track problems occur.

“We’re going to start off the season as we left it last year, if you remember the last few races they were allowed to compete against each other,” Szafnauer said. “Like any relationship or partnership in a team, they go through phases and one of the phases of team building is the conflict stage, and when you get past the conflict stage then you work better together.”

“I think that’s the stage they’re at now, they had to understand each other and get through that phase, which they have got through, and now we look forward to working together as a team and even stronger than before that conflict stage.”

Force India is bracing for a “tough” challenge holding on to fourth place in the F1 standings with the predicted resurgence of McLaren and Renault in 2018.

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