Lance Stroll was left celebrating a brilliant fourth-place finish for Acronis partner team SportPesa Racing Point after a chaotic German Grand Prix that saw six safety car periods and changing weather conditions.
Remarkably, with 20 laps remaining, Stroll was well out of the points. But, in a bold move by the team, he was asked to pit for soft tyres on a wet, but drying, circuit.
It proved a brilliant tactical decision, as his tyres came into optimum working conditions before many of his rivals realised it was the right strategy to go for. Indeed, with two laps remaining, Stroll was in podium position before a late move by Sebastian Vettel relegated him to fourth.
“I’m very happy,” Stroll told Sky Sports’ Martin Brundle after the race. “It’s a bit unfortunate that the podium slipped away from us today because we were definitely in a position to finish on the podium. With 20 laps to go, I think I was leading the race at one point and a small error into Turn 8 allowed Daniil to get by and that was a bit disappointing but aside from that, it was a hectic race and we were at the back for the majority of it but we were at the right tyre with 20 laps to go and that’s all that counts.
“I was driving around the circuit with my visor half open for a whole lap. Looking, inspecting the tarmac thinking is it good enough for slicks? We had to take that risk with 20 laps to go. We were at the back, we weren’t scoring points. It wasn’t fully dry at that stage of the race. There were still some corners where it was still quite damp and just about survival but I knew if we could just jump our competitors, who were still on inters at that time, we would be in pretty good shape and that was the case.
“I am disappointed that the podium slipped away from us. I think a critical moment was the mistake I made in turn eight on my second or third lap on slicks, which is when Daniil [Kvyat] managed to get ahead of me. We tried our best to keep the quicker cars behind, but the podium was just out of reach. Today’s race shows why you should never give up because it’s never over until it’s over. It’s great to see how much this result means to the team and it was so special to see the crew celebrating on the pit wall when I crossed the line. This important result is for everyone in the team and we will enjoy this moment.”
For team boss Otmar Szafnauer, the result was a consequence of taking a few risks along the way and timing the switch to the soft tyre perfectly.
“What a race! It was a rollercoaster ride from start to finish, but to come away with fourth place for Lance and 12 points is a tremendous effort by the entire team,” said Szafnauer in the team’s post-race report. “We rolled the dice a few times with Lance’s strategy, but we timed the final switch to dry tyres perfectly and Lance emerged in the lead of the race for a short while. We gave it everything to try and bring home the podium and we were looking comfortable holding off Bottas.
“Without the late safety car, we might have pulled it off, but the fourth place feels incredibly satisfying. It was a fantastic drive by Lance in very tricky conditions. It was a shame Sergio couldn’t have been there too, but these wet races are often a lottery. All the cars were struggling for grip in the early laps and Sergio lost it on the exit of turn ten. Overall, though, it’s been a brilliant day for the team and a result we will celebrate.”
Indeed, has Sergio Perez not made a mistake when looking well-placed after his great qualifying performance, Racing Point may have had even more cause for celebrations.
“First of all, I need to apologise to my team because I made a mistake,” said Perez. “I’ve thrown away a great opportunity today to score big points for the team. The first rule in these conditions is not to make a mistake and I did. I was picking up the power and then had some aquaplaning on the rear. I lost it and just couldn’t recover from it. I put my hands up for it – I’m extremely disappointed with myself.
“Watching the race from the garage is always tough, but I’m happy that Lance had such a great race. We needed those points and it’s a boost for everyone. I think we’ve definitely taken a step forward this weekend. Now we look forward to Hungary where hopefully we can come back stronger.”
🎙️ @SChecoPerez: “First of all, I need to apologise. I've thrown away a great opportunity today to score big points. I’m happy that Lance had such a great race. Now we look forward to Hungary where hopefully we can come back stronger.”#MakeItCount #F1 #GermanGP pic.twitter.com/PKMihS8ULi
— SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team (@RacingPointF1) July 28, 2019