Racing Point eked out two points in F1 Australian GP courtesy Lance Stroll as the Canadian credited a solid race start for the performance.
The Albert Park circuit in Melbourne hosted the opening round of the 2019 F1 season, where Mercedes once again set the pace as Valtteri Bottas scored the win over Lewis Hamilton with Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen ending up third.
Meanwhile, the ‘new’ SportPesa Racing Point came home with two points after their new hiring Stroll finished ninth. The Canadian made good progress in the race on Sunday after he missed out in qualifying where he qualified only 16th.
Stroll gained seven places in all – the most in Australian GP. He was already up to 13th at the end of Lap 1 and was in the points on Lap 13. Towards the end he had to defend from Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Red Bull Racing’s Pierre Gasly.
Points on debut for Stroll comes at a good time as the tight midfield pack will complicate the scoring at every race. It could be sensed in Melbourne after teammate Sergio Perez faced problems at the start and eventually dropped out of points to end up 14th.
“I am really pleased with my race – it has been a great day at the office,” said Stroll. “It’s really nice to pick up some points on the first weekend of the season, but it wasn’t easy. It was a really challenging afternoon.
“I was chasing Hulkenberg and Raikkonen ahead of me, while also keeping Kvyat and Gasly behind me for most of the race. I was under a lot of pressure and it was very tight, but I am glad we managed to pick up two points.
“We were always planning to go along with our strategy: we were starting out of position, so we knew the key was to make a good start and gain some places in the opening stages, which we did.
“After that, we had good pace and managed to hold off the cars behind us on softer tyres than ours. We saw that it’s going to be really close in the middle of the grid, but we are definitely in the fight and I am happy to be in the car that can compete this year.”
Perez, however, lamented the poor start which cost him places and the strategy to undercut did not work as he was stuck behind the train led by Alfa Romeo Racing’s Antonio Giovinazzi. “I’m disappointed to come away from Melbourne missing out on points.
“It was quite a difficult race for me from lap one because I made a poor start and lost a couple of places before turn one. Overtaking was extremely difficult, so we tried the undercut with the strategy, but it didn’t really work out for us.
“After my pit stop, I was stuck in traffic for the rest of the race. I was able to get ahead of Albon, when he made a mistake, but apart from that it was difficult to really show our pace.” He started 10th but couldn’t hang on into the points position.
Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer had high praise for Stroll for the ‘mature’ drive from the Canadian but was downbeat that Perez’s strategy couldn’t work after he caught traffic. And so, Racing Point left Melbourne with mixed results.
The team is certainly aware that the fight in the ‘B-Class’ will be even more complicated than what it was in 2018. This is just the start but they will have to get on top of things from Bahrain if they want to be considered as a candidate to be the best of the rest.
Written by Omar Alvarez and Edited by Darshan Chokhani