For Racing Point, the 2020 Formula One World Championship was a season full of highs, lows and plenty of controversy starting with pre-season testing at Barcelona when their RP20 looked suspiciously similar to the previous years Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Car : The W10, sparking protests and mass debate from certain teams and the media.
However, Racing Point’s decision to switch to the low-rake aerodynamic configuration that Mercedes use was ultimately a successful one, with both driver’s enjoying podium finishes and the team finishing in fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship.
Over the season Racing Point enjoyed many highs, which involved fantastic strategy calls, great driving and good luck. At the beginning of the season we could all see how quick the Racing Point team’s car was, but it felt like they were missing opportunities to take podium’s, whilst their fellow competitors McLaren F1 Team got off to a flying start taking a podium at the first race.
However, at the chaotic Italian Grand Prix the British-based team finally scored their first podium with Canadian Lance Stroll benefitting from being able to change tyres under red flag, scoring their first podium of the season was a good duck to get off the team’s back and Lance Stroll was able to get a just reward for what had been a great start to the season for the Canadian.
Stroll’s highest point of the season was undoubtedly taking pole position in a wet and slippery Turkish Grand Prix. Stroll has always had a stigma around him surrounding his ability over one lap, being able to brave the slippery conditions at Intercity Istanbul Park and ultimately set the fastest time was a sign of the Canadian coming of age in his ability not just on a Sunday but also on a Saturday. Max Verstappen had dominated both Qualifying 1 and Qualifying 2 but in Qualifying 3 when the intermediate tyre became the tyre of choice, the Racing Point car lit up the timing screens, with both cars qualifying in the top three.
However, undoubtedly the highest moment of the season was at an emotional Sakhir Grand Prix, where Sergio Pérez took a maiden victory for himself and his team. During what was a calamitous race, Racing Point where able to take advantage of Mercedes’s pit stop mishaps under safety car resulting in a victory, at the time the Mexican driver’s future was uncertain and many Formula 1 fans around the world shed a tear whilst the affectionate chants of Chéco could be heard from the Racing Point Staff and Mechanics.
…And the Lows
At the previous Grand Prix before Pérez’s victory, the mood was the complete opposite, the Mexican driver was cruising in second place, even jokingly talking to his engineers on the radio, before in the dying moments of the Grand Prix he heartbreakingly suffered an engine failure denying him of what at the time felt like a last opportunity to stand on the podium!
But, the lowest point of the season was the punishment that ultimately led to Racing Point finishing fourth instead of third in the constructors championship. Due to a regulation change, the British-Based team’s brake discs were deemed to be illegal by the FIA, who gave them a fifteen point deduction in the constructors championship and a €400,000 fine. Racing Point finished the season seven points behind McLaren in third, due to the notable increase in prize money between fourth and third place, the fact they came fourth by seven points will have hurt Racing Point even more.
Over the course of the season, it’s clear that Sergio Pérez was the more consistent of the two Racing Point drivers, in their fourteen races together Perez outqualified Stroll ten times to Stroll’s four.
Only three times across the season did Pérez fail to start inside the top ten, but it was a different story for Stroll, who missed out on the top ten in six events. However, it was the Canadian who achieved the best qualifying result of the year as he took a stunning pole position in the wet conditions at Intercity Istanbul Park.
Nico Hülkenberg, who replaced Pérez for the two Silverstone rounds and Stroll for the race at the Nürburgring, showed just what Formula 1 was missing with him on the sidelines but putting his RP20 third on the grid for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. Not bad for a driver who knew very little about the car before driving it in free practice just a week earlier!
In the races it was a similar story with Pérez finishing ahead of Stroll nine times to the Canadian’s five. Both drivers finished on the podium twice, with Stroll taking the first of those with third in the Italian Grand Prix, with Pérez taking second place in Turkey. However, their best team result came in the Sakhir Grand Prix when both Pérez and Stroll stood on the podium, the Mexican as the race victor and the Canadian in third.
Across the year, Pérez often had the measure of Stroll, and so it was confirmed by the final standings in the Drivers’ Championship. The Mexican was an impressive fourth (despite missing two races), while the Canadian was down in eleventh, fifty points adrift of his team-mate.
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What to look for in 2021
Looking forward to the 2021 season, Racing Point will be re-branded to the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team and will welcome four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel to the team. As the regulations and cars are going to be roughly the same it is fair to expect the British-based team to be challenging regularly for podiums like we have seen this season.
After a couple of questionable strategy calls this season under pressure, the team will have hopefully have learnt from their mistakes in the strategy department and next season will have the advantage of being able to make correct decisions under pressure.
If the 2021 car has a stable rear end it is very possible that we can see Vettel challenging for podiums and the high points scoring places however, after Stroll’s improvement this year if he can work on his consistency and improve his qualifying, then there is no reason why the team-mate battle between Vettel and Stroll could be a lot closer than we all think it will be.