Our Formula 1 halftime analysis continues. This time: SportPesa Racing Point (a.k.a. Force India-Mercedes).
Formula 1 can be an odd place. For years former Force India was in financial trouble. Yet, the former team owned by Indian Vijay Mallya regularly took a top-five spot in the constructors’ championship.
Now, the team has a new name, a new owner and plenty of cash. After Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll with a group of investors took over the Silverstone-based Force India, the team saw a miraculous transformation.
Unfortunately, the abundant money supply didn’t convert into championship points – at least not yet. Racing Point is only eighth in the constructors’ championship and even that was only possible through sheer luck.
Lance Stroll (20), the son of owner Lawrence Stroll, achieved a fourth place in the chaos race at the Hockenheimring. Without that result from Germany, Racing Point would have been at the bottom of the rankings ahead of only Williams.
Despite the disappointing results, Otmar Szafnauer, the new Team Principal, assesses the situation positively:
“On the financial side, we are now much better positioned,” commented the American with German roots, “this opens up new opportunities for the team.”
For example, “big updates such as the B version of the RP19 wouldn’t be possible in the past.”
So far so good, but why didn’t all the changes and update convert into results that matter?
The answer didn’t sound plausible and even contradicts the previously mentioned B-car:
“There is a delay between the financial and the actual situation, and although we have a clear plan, it takes some time. Last year, for example, we had about 405 people and now we are at around 430. That’s not a major change with the staff, because it just takes time.
Szafnauer emphasized the team’s long-term goals:
“Among other things, a completely new factory will be built in Silverstone and we should have all the necessary permits in the second half of the year.”
But what really explains the weakness in the first half of the season? After all, it’s the same technical staff with a bigger budget – so are the drivers to be blamed?
There are few indications for that. For example, the experienced Sergio Perez (29) scored only three times. The 13 points he scored were all from the first four races. After that, the Mexican came in empty-handed. Lance Stroll, on the other hand, scored only four points so far and that in just one race.
Perez was rather self-critical with himself:
“I started the season well. I didn’t make any mistakes and got the most out of the potential of the car.” After that nothing worked anymore.
“That wasn’t my best series. I made a mistake in Hockenheim.”
Nevertheless, he praised his team-mate even though he out-qualified him every Saturday with a clean record of twelve to zero.
What other choice does he have than to praise his teammate? Criticizing Lance Stroll is certainly not allowed. After all, his father and team owner Lawrence Stroll spent tens of millions to help his junior realizing his F1 dream.
“Since Lance came here, I’ve been surprised by his rhythm in the race, and I didn’t expect that,” the Mexican praised the team’s junior boss.
“Historically, I’ve had a slightly bigger advantage over my previous team-mates, especially on the race pace.”
Here, Perez ridiculed himself rather blatantly. Evaluating Stroll stronger than his previous team-mates Nico Hülkenberg and Esteban Ocon is in plain English simply “bullshit.”
The “suck up” to his team-mate and ultimately to the team owner is a clear sign of the new wind that blows within the team. Furthermore, the fact that Perez still doesn’t have a new contract for 2020 does matter, too.
Comparing Perez vs. Stroll
Qualifying duel: 12-0
Average faster in Q: -0.31s
Race comparison: 8-4
Average team points: Perez 42%, Stroll 58%
*This article was first published in German at autobild.de/motorsport.