The 2019 Formula 1 season starts with the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, Melbourne this weekend (March 15-17 2019). The new Racing Point team starts its first full season in the sport.
In 2018, the team formerly known as Sahara Force India went into administration just before the summer break. A consortium led by Lawrence Stroll bought the team and it was re-branded as the Racing Point team for the new season.
After the new owners took over, the new team started from zero points after the summer break and still finished in seventh position (52 points) in the constructors’ championship.
If the Silverstone-based team had kept all their points, the team would have finished in fifth position in the constructors’ championship. This was a remarkable performance for a team which was in financial strife and in turmoil most of the season. The previous two seasons, the team had finished in fourth position.
Sergio Pérez has been with the team since 2014. The Mexican was embroiled in messy legal action in a bid to save the team last season. He admitted that it was a distraction and he will be looking forward to a better performance this year.
Lance Stroll has moved from the Williams team to the Racing Point team which his father effectively owns. It is a very important season for Stroll and he will be up against a very crafty veteran in Pérez.
#11 Sergio Pérez
155 GP Starts | 8 Podiums | 529 Points | 4 Fastest Laps
The Sauber Years
Sergio Pérez made his debut in Formula 1 with the Sauber team in 2011. The Mexican partnered with Kamui Kobayashi that season. Pérez was also a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy. The Mexican was outscored by Kobayashi (14 points to 30 points) in the first season.
In 2012, Pérez came into his own as he outqualified (11-9) and outscored Kobayashi (66 points to 60 points). He finished in tenth position to Kobayashi’s twelfth position in the drivers’ championship.
This was the season when Pérez displayed his prowess in tyre management and securing opportunistic podiums. Three podiums enhanced his reputation as a promising midfield driver who the big teams were observing closely.
The Short Sojourn To McLaren
In 2013, the sudden departure of Lewis Hamilton from McLaren to Mercedes led to an unexpected opportunity to drive with a big team like McLaren. But a poor McLaren car did not help Pérez’s cause. The Mexican was well-beaten by veteran Jenson Button as he was outqualified (9-10), out-raced (6-13), and outscored (49 points to 73 points) by him.
That season McLaren came down from their usual lofty standards and did not score a single podium. Pérez was made one of the scapegoats and was let go by the team.
The Force India Years
After the one-year bitter experience at McLaren, Pérez was thrown a lifeline by Force India. The team which has a close association with McLaren signed Pérez to partner Nico Hulkenberg. Hulkenberg, like Pérez, had performed well as a midfield driver, but a drive with a top team had been elusive.
In 2014, Pérez was outscored by Hulkenberg (59 to 96 points). Pérez finished just behind Hulkenberg in tenth position in the drivers’ championship. Pérez again scored an unexpected podium at the Bahrain GP.
In 2015, Pérez returned the compliment as he outscored Hulkenberg (78 points to 58 points) and finish ahead of him in ninth position in the drivers’ championship. Pérez scored another podium even as Hulkenberg was still searching for his first podium.
In 2016, Perez continued his winning streak as he outscored Hulkenberg (101 points to 72 points) and finished in seventh position compared to Hulkenberg’s ninth position in the championship. Pérez also added another two podiums to take his tally to a total of seven podiums.
Intense Battle with Esteban Ocon
In 2017, Hulkenberg departed to the Renault F1 team. Esteban Ocon, the Mercedes junior driver, became Pérez’s team-mate at Force India. The drivers found themselves in close proximity on track several times and clashes followed. The team was forced to issue team orders that stopped them from racing as it was costing the team points.
Pérez beat Ocon as he outqualified (13-7), out-raced (12-8), and outscored him (100 points to 87 points). Pérez finished in seventh position compared to Ocon’s eighth position in the championship.
In 2018, another close battle ensued on the track between Pérez and Ocon. The team which had relaxed team orders that prevented them from racing each other at the start of the season was forced to enforce the order again.
Pérez again got the better of his young team-mate as he outscored him (62 points to 49 points). Pérez finished in eighth position compared to Ocon’s twelfth position in the championship. The podium specialist added one more podium to take his total tally to eight podiums in all.
#18 Lance Stroll
41 GP Starts | 1 Podium | 46 Points
Lance Stroll won the FIA Formula 3 championship in 2016 with a dominant performance. The young Canadian was fast-tracked into Formula 1 the very next year.
The Williams Years
The 18-year old Canadian partnered the veteran Felipe Massa at Williams in his first year in the sport. Stroll was a raw talent and the experienced Massa outscored him (43 points to 40 points). Stroll scored a notable podium at a chaotic race at the 2017 Azerbaijan GP.
With Massa retiring, rookie Sergey Sirotkin partnered Stroll in 2018. The Williams team was in steep decline and Stroll beat Sirotkin on points (6 points to 1 point).
Pérez vs Stroll in 2019
The Racing Point team has a new driver pairing in Sergio Pérez and Lance Stroll for 2019. Pérez will be in his sixth season at the same team and is the team leader.
Lance Stroll has moved from the Williams team to the Racing Point team which his father owns. Rightly or wrongly, Stroll carries the burden of being sponsored by a very rich father and now drives for a team owned by his father.
It will be very important for Stroll to measure up to a battle-hardened professional like Pérez this season. Stroll needs to establish himself in the sport with his own identity. The former Force India team in its new avatar will give him a decent car to drive.
The Pérez vs Stroll intra-team battle and the overall performance of this new team under the new management will be watched with great interest in 2019.