Thursday, February 11, 2021

1 Racing Mind’s Formula 1 Season Ending Team Report Card: BWT Racing Point F1 Team

Photo Credit: Mark Sutton/ LAT Images/ Pirelli

Team Grade: A-

Overall Season: 

Racing Point name in Formula 1 will only exist for two and a half seasons as the team prepares for a massive rebranding for 2021. However, in the twilight of the short-lived Racing Point identity, the squad focused around pink team colours has left a meaningful footprint in the sport. For many races in 2020, the organization’s RP20 was a common sight running in the top 10 (often in the top five) of grand prix events.

Racing Point’s driver lineup consisting of Mexican Sergio Perez and Canadian Lance Stroll both had career years in 2020 with the young driver scoring his first Formula 1 career while the veteran pilot captured a prized win in the Sakhir Grand Prix. Both Racing Point drivers had to sit out races due to positive COVID-19 tests resulting in Nico Hulkenberg joining the group for three events performing more than respectable efforts especially based on limited practice. 

Though Racing Point established itself as a solid contender this season evident by its fourth place finish in the World Constructors’ Championship, the team’s infancy as a top-contending organization showed on several occasions this past year. A reliance on technology from Mercedes-AMG was also a major factor in Racing Point’s success but ended up being a double-edged sword creating one of the biggest controversies in the Formula 1 paddock.

Achievements During 2020 Season:

 Racing Point found its target during the 2020 season. After struggling to find traction in the 2019 competition, the group maintained itself as a solid top five constructor this past season. In occasions holding its own against Mercedes-AMG and Red Bull Racing, Racing Point posted two monumental achievements late in the season. Under treacherous conditions in Istanbul, Lance Stroll took pole for the Turkish Grand Prix. On race day, Stroll maintained the lead early but eventually fell down the running order as a result of tire issues. The Canadian driver was also in position to take Racing Point’s first Formula 1 win at the Italian Grand Prix but settled for third in that race. With two races remaining in his tenure at Racing Point, Sergio Perez stormed to victory at the Sakhir Grand Prix. 

Shortcomings During 2020 Season: 

For the first part of the Formula 1 season, the Racing Point team’s RP20 race car came under scrutiny for its design resembling last year’s Mercedes-AMG F1 W10 EQ Power+ initially resulting in the vehicle being branded a “Pink Mercedes’ by some. Although the similarities were dealt with by humour, other teams felt more seriously about Racing Point’s 2020 challenger. The Renault F1 Team would file a formal complaint after the second round of the season focused on the RP20's rear brake duct design. After an investigation by the FIA it was determined the team used a 2019 rear brake duct design that was unused until this season. Though the computer-aided design template was legally obtained last year, using the design as the basis for the 2020 car was judged for being an infraction. Costing the team 400,000 euros, the addition penalty of 15 points proved significantly more expensive. Racing Point was seven points behind McLaren Racing who took third place in the 2020 Formula 1 World Constructors’ Championship.     

Team's Drivers:

#11 Sergio Perez: A+

Zak Mauger/ LAT Images/ Pirelli

Overall Season: 

Reaching the mark of completing in 190 grand prix events in 2020, Sergio Perez entered the season as one of the longest competing Formula 1 drivers that had not won a race. At the beginning of the year, the 30-year-old Perez who spent a majority of his career in the series driving mid-mark race cars was one-half of the driving team piloting Racing Point’s steadily quick RP20 machine. For the Mexican, the 2020 season would serve as a reward for a team he supported when it was known as Force India and remained part of following a consortium headed by Lawrence Stroll bought the organization. Demonstrating an ability of picking up points in almost every start he made, Perez’s presence in Formula 1 appeared to be precarious as Racing Point decided within the season that their 2021 plans would involve Sebastian Vettel replacing him. Determined to leave a lasting mark on the team as well as secure a 2021 ride, Perez was on a mission in the late rounds of the 2020 calendar. Becoming a Formula 1 race winner in the second to last race with Racing Point, Sergio Perez accomplished both late season goals.

For the 2021 Formula 1 season, Segio Perez takes his reignited determination to the Red Bull Racing team


Achievements During 2020 Season: 

The crowning achievement of what was a banner season for Sergio Perez is naturally the much-lauded victory at the Sakhir Grand Prix. Recovering from being a casualty of opening lap contact from the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, Perez’s charge placed him in prime position when the pair of Mercedes-AMG race cars fell out of contention due to poorly executed pit stops. Perez’s victory in the race in Bahrain was a popular moment late in the 2020 Formula 1 season and certainly played a major part in cementing the Mexican’s place with Red Bull Racing for 2021.  

Besides the win, Sergio Perez’s 2020 season is still an impressive campaign finishing fourth overall in the World Drivers’ Championship. With exception to the two races he missed because of a COVID-19 diagnosis, Perez finished in the top 10 in all two events. 

Shortcomings During 2020 Season:  

Sergio Perez became the first Formula 1 driver to be affected by the Coronavirus in 2020. Testing positive for the virus just before the British Grand Prix, Perez was sidelined for the famous United Kingdom event as well as a special second event held on the Silverstone Circuit called the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. With Lance Stroll showing eye-catching pace with his Racing Point car during practice at Silverstone, there would have been a strong likelihood that the Perez would have been able to at least mirror the lap times.

The final four races for the Mexican at Racing Point were a period of highs and lows. Sergio Perez’s two podiums were accompanied by two race exits before crossing the finish line. His retirements in both races came late in the season and were the result of power unit failures.

#18 Lance Stroll: B

Photo Credit: Steven Tee/ LAT Images/ Pirelli

Overall Season: 

Having entered his fourth season in Formula 1 in 2020, 22-year-old Lance Stroll is perhaps one of the most scrutinized athletes in the sport. Since his arrival in 2017, the merits of Stroll’s presence in the driver’s seat were questioned by some citing his father’s and family’s wealth. However, this assumption discounting the Canadian’s place in the Formula 1 fails to account for his Italian F4 and F3 European Championship titles as well as what has been some more than decent drives between 2017 and the end of 2019 for teams away from the top tier. 

The 2020 season presented the first true test for Lance Stroll in Formula 1 as the Racing Point team had become a legitimate podium contender. The year started strong with a streak of point scoring finishes spanning seven races but was broken by a troublesome middle portion of the series. Thanks to a pair of third-place finishes, Stroll’s season ended with a 11th place in the drivers’ standings.  

Achievements During 2020 Season:

Lance Stroll demonstrated consistent race pace early in the 2020 Formula 1 season thanks to a career-best run of consecutive point-paying positions. The 22-year-old Canadian would also set a career-high amount of total top 10 finishes in Formula 1 that included a two podium finishes. At the 2020 Italian Grand Prix, Stroll posted a third place result that was the highest finish for the Racing Point team’s short history at that time in the season. The second podium for Lance Stroll accompanied the triumphant victory of teammate Sergio Perez in the Sakhir Grand Prix.       

At the fourteenth round of the 2020 Formula 1 season, Lance Stroll proved himself to be superior among competitors in qualifying for the Turkish Grand Prix. A Saturday event undertaken on a wet and slippery Intercity Istanbul Park track, the #18 Racing Point race car posted a lap time in Q3 besting teammate Perez as well as beating the efforts of Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen for the top grid position. Stroll became the fifth youngest Formula 1 polesitter and would lead a sizable portion of Sunday’s main event.

Shortcomings During 2020 Season:  

There’s a belief in auto racing that sometimes a driver needs to lose a race before they can win one. In 2020, Lance Stroll was presented with at least three potential opportunities that could have been grand prix victories but failed.

The first major chance for the Canadian to pull off a Formula 1 win this past season came at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix. Lining up in second for a standing start following a red flag period on lap 28, Stroll could not get the traction needed for an effective launch and fell to fifth place by the end of the lap. At the Sakhir Grand Prix, the #18 Racing Point car failed to pass the Renault of Esteban Ocon during the middle portion of the event. Stroll’s teammate Sergio Perez did accomplish the feat and ultimately ended up in the position to take the win.

Though the two previously mentioned incidents ended with the consolation of a podium result, Lance Stroll settled with far less in a grand prix where he started on pole. At the Turkish Grand Prix, Stroll maintained the lead early and pulled out a gap on wet weather tires but suffered after intermediate tires were mounted to his Racing Point on pit stops finishing ninth.

In addition to his unfortunate missed chances for an initial Formula 1 victory, Lance Stroll had a demoralizing streak of not scoring a point after his podium at Monza. Stroll crashed in the Tuscan Grand Prix due to a tire failure, collected in an opening lap incident in Russia, withdrew from the Eifel Grand Prix because of illness and had poor outings in Portugal as well as the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.  

#27 Nico Hulkenberg: A

Photo Credit: Glenn Dunbar/ LAT Image/ Pirelli

Overall Season: 

Time and again, there are drivers in Formula 1 that proves how unfair the sport is to some very skilled individuals. Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg first drove for the Williams Racing team in 2010 after demonstrating his championship-earning abilities in the defunct A1 Grand Prix and GP2 Series. In the middle of his Formula 1 career, Hulkenberg participated in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans where he was part of the overall winning driving team behind the wheel of a Porsche 919 Hybrid prototype sports car. However, after nine competitive season in Formula 1 (ten including the 2011 season where he served as reserve/test driver for Force India) the German’s career was relegated to mid-to-lower field teams. Often over-achieving with the vehicles he competed in, he was never able to earn a grand prix podium result by the end of 2019 when the Renault F1 Team decided not to retain Hulkenberg. While many Formula 1 fans expressed support for Nico Hulkenberg in Formula 1, a 32-year-old driver who had not won in the series was vulnerable as a newer, younger crop of competitors are always climbing through the ranks. 

Without a ride for 2020, Nico Hulkenberg’s talent would return to the Formula 1 grid on three occasions with Racing Point. Hulkenberg would substitute for the team’s regular drivers Sergio Perez for both races at the Silverstone Circuit as well as for Lance Stroll at the Eifel Grand Prix on the Nurburgring track. Despite little preparation for two of three events, the German’s efforts were strong and resulted in his appearances receiving well-deserved praise.  

Achievements During 2020 Season: 

In the three appearance with Racing Point during the 2020 season, Nico Hulkenberg’s reserve call-up succeeded as creating a buzz around every event. Piloting his #27 Racing Point RP20 race car during the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone, Hulkenberg compiled some barn burner laps in qualifying on Saturday in an effort that placed him third on the grid. The German pulled off a seventh place finish after 52 laps during the Sunday main race.

Nico Hulkenberg’s third and final run in the 2020 Formula 1 season earned him the “Driver of the Day” recognition. Initially intending to spend the race weekend as a personality with German television, Hulkenberg was called to replace an ill Lance Stroll at the Eifel Grand Prix on Saturday. With no practice time, the German qualified in 20th place but drove to an eighth place result. By a considerable margin, Formula 1 fans voted Nico Hulkenberg as the Driver of the Day for the race at his home track.  

Shortcomings During 2020 Season: 

Nico Hulkenberg’s worst showing in 2020 was not the result of actions of the German but rather a clutch bolt. After qualifying 13th on Saturday for the British Grand Prix, Hulkenberg’s #27 Racing Point refused to start for the formation lap on Sunday. Hulkenberg and his Racing Point RP20 were sent to the garage before having the ability to a turn. 

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