Split strategy almost rewards Racing Point with double points finish

It was another case of what might have been for Acronis partner team Racing Point come the conclusion of the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.

Just as was the case in Sochi, Sergio Perez bagged more points for the team with a strong drive to ninth place on a two-stop strategy but Lance Stroll again finished just a place out of the points on what turned out to be a riskier one-stopper.

Starting from 17th on the grid, Perez again showed great race craft to fight his way through the field, pitting for a new set of medium compound rubber on lap 19, and then the softest rubber 11 laps from the end, giving him further impetus to make up more places by the finish.

“Our pace in the race was better than qualifying and I was more confident with the car,” said Perez in his team debrief. “I made a good start and the team did a fantastic job with the strategy. We pitted a second time for Soft tyres late in the race and I managed to get back into the points.”

It then looked as if all that good work had been undone when, having seemingly made a pass on Pierre Gasly stick to move up to eighth, the Toro Rosso appeared to drive back onto Perez’s line, knocking him off the circuit.

“There was confusion at the end because the chequered flag came out a lap early, so when I was taken out by Gasly the race had already finished,” explained Perez. “With the fresh tyres I was much faster than him. I was ahead of him and left enough room so there was no need for the contact. It’s disappointing to finish the race like that – with a damaged car – but at least we got some points for the team.”

For teammate Stroll, it was another case of what might have been, as he again finished just shy of the points after employing a different one-stop race strategy, starting on the softs but running the medium tyre for 34 laps to the chequered flag.

“We had a good first stint running solidly in the top ten, but the main issue today was struggling with the tyres in the final laps,” said Stroll. “I spent most of the race just behind Gasly, which wasn’t good for my front tyres, but it was really during the last ten laps that we lacked the grip to hold on to eighth place.

“We had committed to the one-stop, but maybe the two-stop strategy was the way to go because it gives you a big advantage at the end of the race. We saw that with Checo. We had good track position at the beginning of the race so we tried to hang on for the points. It didn’t go our way today and we will analyse things to understand where we can improve for the next time.”

Another points haul for Perez means that the Racing Point team is just five points behind Toro Rosso in the battle for sixth place in the constructors’ standings.

“It was a tough call to choose between one or two stops today and the results confirm there was very little to choose between the two strategies,” added team boss Otmar Szafnauer. “Lance ran inside the top ten for pretty much the entire race and deserved to come away with some points. He did a super job of fending off the Renaults for a good number of laps, but they made their tyre advantage count in the last few laps.

“Sergio, who was running behind Lance, was able to roll the dice with no downside, and switch to a two-stop race with about ten laps to go. He made the most of a set of new softs to score a couple of points. Also, credit to the pit crew today for some very quick stops, including a 2.18 seconds stop for Sergio, which was the quickest of the day. Credit also to Mercedes on a sixth consecutive Championship title – a really incredible achievement.”

Lance Stroll, Racing Point RP19 , rockets across the finish line

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.