Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer says Lance Stroll showed great potential in his first full season with the team following his switch from Williams.
Stroll followed his father Lawrence to Racing Point after the latter headed up a consortium that took control of the team in the summer of 2018, and scored on his debut, with fourth place being his best result from six top-10 finishes. Szafnauer says the first season working with Stroll has highlighted where the Canadian needs to improve but he’s excited by the base performance the 21-year-old is able to build from.
“I see great potential, he’s a fast racing car driver,” Szafnauer told RACER. “What we’ve got to teach him is the stuff around the edges. We don’t really have to teach him how to drive fast, he’s got that – he’s less than 0.2s per lap slower than Checo (Sergio Perez) in qualifying on average, and race pace is even smaller.
“So it’s not that, it’s all the other stuff that goes along with Formula 1 racing, and you can’t teach that overnight. That takes time. He’s had a great first year, scored some good points for the team, and this coming season I’m certain he will be even better. He will be on that trajectory – that learning curve, the steep bit of it – so he’ll do even better in 2020.”
Although Stroll himself admitted his links to his father made the switch to Racing Point almost inevitable, Szafnauer said he had no concerns taking on the youngster from a pace standpoint, but the biggest unknown was his ability to improve.
“He definitely met expectations, and exceeded them in some regards,” he said. “We didn’t quite know, because it’s hard to tell by just a simulator session or two how intelligent he is and how quickly he learns. So that, he definitely exceeded. His pace, we knew he was quick so he met the pace expectations, so in total we were impressed.”
The more experienced Perez outscored Stroll by 52 points to 21, and Szafnauer puts part of that gap down to experience as well as the Mexican’s consistency.
“Checo’s done a great job,” he said. “Lance has done a great job too, but he’s learning, he was in his first year with us, Checo’s been here for quite some time and he’s a key member of our team. He knows what we’re about, we don’t have to teach him anymore and he’s done a brilliant job.”