Stroll denied chance of strong points finish after Vettel error

With Sergio Perez producing a stunning drive through the field at the Italian Grand Prix, things could certainly been even better for the SportPesa Racing Point team had Lance Stroll not been punted out of contention by Sebastian Vettel.

With Stroll running a strong seventh after making his customary good start, he could do nothing but hit Vettel, who inexplicably chose to rejoin the circuit at Ascari and straight into the path of the Racing Point. It was due to the quick reactions of Stroll that a bigger accident was avoided, and the Ferrari duly served a stop/go penalty.

“That’s a tough one to take,” said Stroll in his team’s race debrief. “We should have scored good points today. It all went wrong when Vettel came back on the track very aggressively and hit me. I’m quite upset with him for what happened. I tried to avoid him by going to the left but he just kept moving forward and eventually we made contact: I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“I did everything I could to avoid him and I was even cautious with the yellow flag. I lifted off and he just came back on at Ascari and there was really nothing I could do, even at the speed I was going. He clipped me, I spun and then I was pointing the wrong way. When I was coming back onto the circuit myself, I got penalised for no fault of my own. It’s just a disaster really.

To compound matters, on re-joining the track himself, Stroll forced the Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly to take evasive action and run wide onto the gravel. Race stewards deemed it an offence worthy of a drive through penalty and it was to Stroll’s credit that he still managed to finish 12th, just two places shy of the points after also having to pit for damage repair.

“I couldn’t see Pierre: I was just trying to get off the racing line and away from the dangerous position Vettel forced me into,” said a disappointed Stroll in his team’s race debrief. “We were looking pretty strong in seventh, with a decent gap to eighth, pulling away from the McLaren, and keeping the Renaults in sight. It was looking like a pretty smooth race from there, but it just goes to show how quickly things can turn around. There’s a lot of racing left this year and more improvements to come. This one is going to sting for a day or two. I think there were a lot of points up for grabs, but that’s racing.”

Team boss Otmar Szafnauer took an even dimer view of four-time world champion Vettel’s driving, going as far as saying that race stewards got it wrong with his driver’s penalty.

“Lance’s race was destroyed when Vettel hit him in the Ascari chicane on lap seven. The subsequent undeservedly harsh penalty dropped Lance out of contention for the points. It’s a real shame because he had made a super start and was running comfortably in seventh place at the time. It was very unlucky: he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time!”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.