Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer says Lance Stroll proved he has “a lot of potential” when he first drove the team’s car at the end of last season.
It was widely expected that Stroll would join the former Force India team for 2019 once his father Lawrence headed a consortium that rescued the outfit from administration, but despite a chance of an earlier move his first time driving the car came in the Pirelli tire test after last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. With Stroll having just completed his second season in Formula 1 at the age of 20, Szafnauer says the on-track performance gives him confidence in the young Canadian’s future.
“He did a little bit in the simulator before Abu Dhabi, getting to know the guys, but you know there’s nothing like driving a car for 80-100 laps and you really get to know the car and the team, what we’re about,” Szafnauer told RACER.
“(The signs were) very good — good feedback, a positive attitude, you know he was pretty quick straight away, so that’s all the things you want in a racing car driver. He still has things to learn, so, with a lot to learn and being relatively quick, there’s a lot of potential.”
Stroll will partner Sergio Perez at Racing Point this year and Szafnauer says the introduction of one new driver made it even more important that the team retained either Perez or Esteban Ocon to aid its own development program.
“In car development for example, you know if what you learned last year you’ll wanna take into this year and if you lose people you lose (their knowledge). So it applies to trackside engineers as well, but you need one driver to carry over from one year to the next for all the car development reasons.
“You know the drivers are a big part of that feedback loop of development. You plan, you do, you check it, and you adjust. Then you keep going through that loop and you get better and better.
“Well, the ‘check’ bit is the driver. You add development to the car to make it go quicker, he checks it, gives you feedback, then you adjust and then you do it all over again. So if you lose that you lose quite a bit … We had to keep one of the drivers.
“Checo has been with us for a long time. He’s got great experience. He wanted to stay, we wanted to keep him, so why not?”