2020 SEASON REVIEW: RACING POINT
17 races, 1037 laps, 3249 racing laps. The shortest season since ’66. They might’ve lost out to P3 in the Constructors’ by seven points, but Racing Point really have had an amazing season in 2020. Both drivers, Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez and Lance Stroll, missed races due to testing positive for COVID-19, yet between them, they’ve had four podiums, compared to zero podiums last year. 2020 has really been a positive one for Racing Point, despite plenty of ups and downs. Plus, their car, the RP20, is pink. I love that.
Race one in Austria feels like a lifetime ago now. After an extended break as a result of COVID-19, the 2020 Formula 1 season finally got underway in July. The first race was entirely thrilling from lights out to chequered flag, with only eleven cars finishing the seventy-one laps (despite there being two more classified drivers – it’s all down to how much of the race they actually completed). One of the drivers who didn’t make it to the end was one of Racing Point’s own; Lance Stroll retired after twenty laps. Sergio Pérez picked up a five second penalty from the FIA for speeding in the pitlane. The first race wasn’t the best start to the season for Racing Point, or maybe not how they envisioned it, anyway. On lap sixty-nine, with only two more to go, McLaren’s Lando Norris passed Pérez at Turn 3 for fourth place and Checo slipped down to sixth. Meanwhile, and rather sadly, Stroll was watching on from the garage.
FORMULA 1 ROLEX AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX: PER – P6, STR – DNF
Formula 1 remained in Austria for the second round of the season, at the exact same track too, just under a different name this time. The official name in Austrian? Grosser Preis der Steiermark, 2020, known to us English speakers as the Styrian Grand Prix. Only five times has this happened in Formula 1, with the same country hosting two consecutive championship races, but never at the same circuit venue. Even more history being made by F1 in 2020. By this second race, there was an investigation surrounding Racing Point for their front and rear brake ducts, as brought to the attention of the FIA by Renault. The outcome was unknown and fans, plus the team, had to wait even longer to find out what the consequences of this investigation would be.
However, putting that aside, the race was quite a successful one, when considering the starting grid position of both drivers after Saturday’s Qualifying session. Stroll started P12 and Pérez started P17. Once again, Norris took advantage of the bad luck of both Racing Point drivers. First off, he was able to pass Stroll and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo after they braked too hard at Turn 3, with two laps until the end. This left Norris in sixth, with Pérez next to either pass, or stay behind. Unfortunately for Pérez, his front wing was damaged after he battled with Alexander Albon for fourth place, causing him to slow, making it easier for Norris to pass at the final corner. Stroll and Ricciardo were still close behind, adding to the race drama and provoking a photo finish for seventh. Although, compare it to last week, to Austria: both cars finished the race weekend and both were in the top ten, bringing home a good few points for Racing Point in the Constructors’ and for themselves as individuals in the Drivers’ Championship. And, to top it off, fans voted Checo as Driver of the Day. No extra points for that, just the pride.
FORMULA 1 PIRELLI STYRIAN GRAND PRIX: PER – P6, STR – P7
The final race of the first triple header came in Hungary. Once again, a successful race for Racing Point, and an even more positive finish for Stroll. SO close to a podium. With rain before lights out, both Stroll and Pérez started on the green-banded Intermediate tyres, in P3 and P4 respectively. A second-row lock-out was impressive, despite the fact that it fuelled Renault to continue their complaint into the legality of the Racing Point car. Pérez didn’t have the best start from fourth. The teams soon released that running on slick tyres was the better option, and Racing Point pitted both drivers on lap 3 for a set of used Medium (yellow-banded) Pirelli tyres. On lap 16, Stroll found himself in a podium position spot after passing Magnussen at turn one, but, Bottas was successful in the undercut after pitting on lap 33. Racing Point pitted Stroll on lap 35 for another set of used Medium tyres, while Pérez changed to a new set of Hard (white-banded) tyres. This was good enough to take him to the end of the race, while Stroll took on new Hard tyres on lap forty-nine. Despite the end classification result still only being provisional for Racing Point due to the ongoing protest, the team actually had a very positive finish. Together, the drivers added eighteen points onto their pre-existing twenty-two points.
FORMULA 1 HUNGARIAN GRAND PRIX: PER – P7, STR – P4
Disaster struck in the run-up to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, where two consecutive race weekends were to be held. It was announced on 30 July, one day before the weekend would begin with FP1, that Sergio Pérez would not take part in the Grand Prix after testing positive for COVID-19. He was the first driver to test positive for the virus and Racing Point were left to find a replacement in a matter of hours.
To everyone’s surprise, German driver Nico Hulkenberg was called in to drive for Racing Point that weekend. After leaving Renault at the end of the 2019 season, fans were pleased to see Hulk back in an F1 seat, even if it just was for one race. Hulkenberg qualified thirteenth, which, in retrospect, was impressive considering he only spent a few hours in the car before Qualifying on Saturday. For Nico, and Racing Point, it looked to be a good race, but that all changed pre-lights out on the Sunday. The team discovered an issue on his car and he was unable to start the race. Devastation all round, particularly from fans who were ecstatic about his return to Formula 1.
However, on the other side of the garage, hope was not all lost, with Lance Stroll starting from P6. After a tough week, with the positive test and Hulkenberg being unable to start, the pressure was all on Stroll to bring home some points. The race ended rather dramatically, with Hamilton facing extreme problems with his left front tyre; he was able to bring his car home to take his seventh home Grand Prix victory. Stroll finished in the points, just, but he added two points onto his Drivers’ total and also for the team in the Constructors’ Championship. Considering the circumstances, I wouldn’t put it down as a bad one for Racing Point at all.
FORMULA 1 PIRELLI BRITISH GRAND PRIX: HUL – DNS, STR – P9
After testing positive again for COVID-19 after completing his isolation period, Pérez also sat out the 70thAnniversary Grand Prix, also held at Silverstone. He continued to isolate while Hulkenberg was called up again to take his seat, however this weekend, there was more preparation. In FP1, he finished P4, in FP2, P6 and in FP3, Hulk finished in P4 again, twice outscoring his teammate for the weekend. Despite these sessions being for the sole purpose of practice, it doesn’t count for much, but all being well with the car come race day, the outlook was good for Racing Point. Although, the outcome of the protest surrounding their suspicious brake ducts were revealed; the team were fined €400k and lost 15 Championship points, 7.5 points each for both cars entered into races. This changed things a little; the pressure was on to make up the fifteen lost points and to continue their battle in the Constructors’.
Hulk started P3 on the grid for Sunday’s race, while Stroll was a few positions behind in P6. All in all, a good Qualifying for Racing Point. Any points scored by either driver would be added onto Racing Point’s Constructors’ Championship tally, which they desperately needed after the point reduction. At the 70thAnniversary race and after the late-race drama regarding Soft tyres last week, teams were very wary of the tyre compounds and strategies they used this weekend. All top ten drivers, including Hulkenberg and Stroll, started on the Medium compound tyre, except for Max Verstappen, who started on the Hard tyre. Seeing Hulkenberg’s car on the grid was a good start for Racing Point. And, he was successful during the race, too.
Stroll finished P6 and Hulkenberg finished in P7. These finishing positions brought home a points total of fourteen – I can only imagine the delight of almost grabbing enough points to make them pretty much even with what they’d lost. It couldn’t be a negative, and while it maybe wasn’t the best result, the stewards’ decision on the Renault protest was final. Racing Point lost their battle in that, but their Championship battle was only getting started, and was slowly becoming tighter with McLaren and Renault.
EMIRATES FORMULA 1 70TH ANNIVERSARY GRAND PRIX: HUL – P7, STR – P6
Pérez was back for the sixth round of seventeen races in 2020, this time in Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix. When looking at Qualifying results, there’s already a huge positive for Racing Point, especially considering one of their drivers spent the past two weeks dealing with COVID-19. Pérez returned and he absolutely performed, even on a Saturday, qualifying in P4, with his teammate Stroll only one grid spot behind him in P5. The build-up to the race was intense, with the potential of Pérez splitting the Mercedes drivers as the race got underway. The warm temperatures were a worry too, for the drivers themselves and also when it came to tyre-wear, especially after the issues at a hot Silverstone. Prior to the race, RP Team Principal, Otmar Szafnauer said, ‘if we can finish where we start, that will be a good race for us.’ Well, no spoilers, but…
A first lap battle between Bottas and Stroll resulted in no contact. Pérez lost one spot and moved down to fifth. Still, nothing too bad for the team, considering there were sixty-five laps to go. Stroll was leading a Mercedes, with Pérez behind Bottas… exciting, right? Throughout the entire season, it was truly amazing to see the pink cars battling at the front for podium positions and even wins. Despite the protest initiated by Renault, Racing Point had a car and drivers to be proud of, only six races in! By lap five however, Bottas was well onto Stroll and took his spot in the podium places. Not a worry though; Szafnauer wanted P4 and P5, the current positions for the team. That’s how it ended, too. (Okay, I spoilt the end for you.)
Stroll and Pérez were still in fourth and fifth as lap twenty-seven rolled round, with both cars not pitting yet, either. A one-stop strategy was becoming to seem more likely. Stroll pitted next lap (28), for medium tyres, with Pérez pitting on the thirtieth lap for the same compound as his teammate. Both Racing Points drove a comfortable race, with the desired finishing positions being ones they achieved. A fourth and fifth finish brought home plenty of points, twenty-two in total. Maybe Otmar could put our lottery numbers on?
FORMULA 1 ARAMCO SPANISH GRAND PRIX: PER – P5, STR – P4
With no summer break this year due to the extended off-season because of COVID, the Belgian Grand Prix weekend seemed to roll round quite quickly. A definite fan favourite, the mood was sombre, as we remembered French driver Anthoine Hubert, who died after an accident in the Formula 2 Feature Race at Spa in 2019. Drivers paid their tributes, with minute silences held before races got underway throughout the weekend, for someone who will never be forgotten by any motorsport fan.
Both Racing Point drivers qualified in the top ten, with Checo starting in P8 and Lance starting P9. On Sunday, after the Safety Car was deployed for an incident at Fagnes involving Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) and Russell (Williams), everyone pitted over two laps for new tyres, not including AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Pérez. While Stroll pitted to change from used Soft tyres to new Hard compounds on lap eleven (under safety car conditions), it wasn’t until lap eighteen when Pérez entered the pits to make the same change. A one stop strategy for both cars. An effective strategy, too. A top-ten start and a top-ten finish… not bad at all.
FORMULA 1 ROLEX BELGIAN GRAND PRIX: PER – P10, STR – P9
Onto Monza, arguably one of the most exciting races this year… not just for fans, but for Racing Point too.
Pérez qualified P4, Stroll qualified P8. Both started on used Soft tyres and across fifty-three laps, pulled off a successful two-stop strategy. However, Monza brought plenty chaos in 2020. After Magnussen’s Haas came to a halt near the pit-lane entrance, the Safety Car was deployed and the pit-lane was closed. Despite its closure, Hamilton and Giovinazzi proceeded to stop for fresh tyres, which resulted in a ten-second stop/go penalty for each driver, an absolutely detrimental penalty for race leader, Hamilton. With all drivers who hadn’t stopped before the safety car pitting on lap twenty-two after the pit entrance reopened, Stroll was the only driver to remain out on track on his used Soft compound tyres. He eventually changed to new Mediums on lap twenty-six, the same tyre which Pérez changed to on lap twenty-two. After an accident for Charles Leclerc at Parabolica, the race was red-flagged on lap twenty-seven.
The race began again with a standing restart and Hamilton served his penalty on lap twenty- nine. Stroll slipped behind Gasly and both Alfa Romeo drivers, yet when Giovinazzi served his penalty, he was quick to make up a place. There was actually a high chance that Stroll could take the win, while his team was further back among a sea of other cars, but his slip up at the Roggia chicane left him in fifth.
He managed to climb back up the order to finish on the podium. A podium which we never expected at Lights Out; GASLY, SAINZ, STROLL.
FORMULA 1 HEINEKEN ITALIAN GRAND PRIX: PER – P10, STR – P3
Mugello; the second Italian race out of three, and adding to the Italian chaos we witnessed this year. In Friday’s FP1 session, Stroll was 1.3kph (approx. 0.8mph) over the speed limit and was fined €200. After FP2, Pérez was given a one-place grid penalty after a collision with Räikkönen at Turn 1.
Stroll started in P6 and Pérez started in P7 on Sunday, both taking on sets of used Soft tyres for the beginning of the race. Verstappen and Gasly were involved in a collision which ended their races prematurely on lap one, bringing out the Safety Car. On lap eight, as the Safety Car entered the pits and racing resumed, another incident at the back of the grid eliminated four cars (Giovinazzi, Magnussen, Sainz, Latifi). The race was red-flagged. We were yet to have a full lap of racing.
Once proper racing started, Stroll passed Leclerc in the Ferrari for the final podium spot on lap eighteen. Meanwhile, Pérez seemed to be going backwards, after being passed by Ricciardo on lap fifteen and Norris, thirteen laps later. Although, Pérez also made a move on Leclerc, just like plenty other drivers… a poor race for Ferrari’s 1000th in Formula 1. Another Safety Car was deployed on lap forty-four, along with the second red flag of the race. This time, devastation for the pink cars… Stroll crashed at Arrabbiata 2, one of the high-speed corners on the circuit. Stroll was okay and was able to leave his car quickly after impact. This left only Pérez to collect points for the team. He finished with a strong ten points.
FORMULA 1 PIRELLI TUSCAN GRAND PRIX: PER – P5, STR – DNF
Onto Sochi. A mediocre Qualifying for Racing Point; positive in the sense that Pérez secured a second row start in P4 alongside Bottas (P3), but more negative because Stroll didn’t make Q3 after his car overheated on Saturday afternoon, and was starting from P12.
The first lap brought out the Safety Car, and Stroll was out. Absolutely gutting for Racing Point. Stroll was hit from behind by Leclerc, causing him to spin off track and hit the barriers, resulting in a DNF. The incident was noted by the stewards, however, they concluded that it was just a racing incident.
Pérez had a good race, and arguably an even better finish. Every single point matters, especially when the midfield battle was as tight as it was in 2020. Twelve points were added onto his Drivers’ Championship total, and Racing Point’s total in the Constructors’. Just one spot outside of the podium.
FORMULA 1 VTB RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX: PER – P4, STR – DNF
Lance Stroll did not take part in the Eifel Grand Prix at the Nürburgring due to illness, which, at the time, was confirmed to not be COVID related. However, ten days after the Grand Prix, he confirmed that after the weekend, he tested positive for the virus. He followed all normal isolation protocol and procedure and for that weekend, he was replaced by Nico Hulkenberg.
FP3 was the first session of the weekend as Friday’s sessions were cancelled due to poor weather resulting in the medical helicopter being unable to fly. Due to the last-minute call-up for Hulk, he didn’t make FP3 and qualified in P20. Not really a surprise considering the time frame for his return to F1 (a matter of hours), but we all had faith in a better Sunday, especially considering the Eifel Grand Prix was classed as Hulk’s home race in 2020. The original 2020 calendar did not have a German race scheduled. As a result of the changes due to COVID-19, an agreement was made to hold a race at the Nürburgring, the first since 2013. Pérez, meanwhile, qualified in P9.
Despite a poor Qualifying session, Hulkenberg was able to make up for it for himself and the team. A strong performance left him in the points come the chequered flag. With the midfield battle becoming tighter, and the talk of the paddock, points were a necessity. Pérez also had a strong race and yet another strong finish, showing his talent and why he deserves an F1 seat. With Vettel making the move to Racing Point for 2021 (when it becomes Aston Martin), Pérez needed to prove that he should stay, too. Despite almost losing his front ring in a lap-ten battle with Norris, Checo contributed to the double points finish this weekend.
FORMULA 1 ARAMCO EIFEL GRAND PRIX: PER – P4, HUL – P8
Portimão was back on the calendar, with the Algarve International Circuit home to this year’s Portuguese Grand Prix, the first in twenty-four years. Lance Stroll was back this weekend, feeling much better after recovering from COVID. He started from P12 on the grid, while Pérez started from P5, alongside Albon (Red Bull) on the third row.
On lap one, Pérez made contact with Verstappen, causing the Racing Point driver to spin and he slipped all the way back to P20. An absolutely devastating start to the Portuguese Grand Prix for the team, especially after such a promising Qualifying result for the Mexican. Stroll, meanwhile, made contact with Lando Norris at turn one later in the race and was given a five second penalty for the incident, and another five second penalty on lap twenty-four for exceeding track limits. By lap fifty-five, Stroll was in the pits after retiring from the race. Yet another DNF for the Canadian driver. So devastating for him and the team.
Checo’s end result, however, was coined as a ‘one of the highlights of the race’ (official F1 magazine), as he finished seventh from the back of the grid after his first lap incident with Verstappen. An unexpected points finish, one which most likely wouldn’t have been possible in last year’s car.
FORMULA 1 HEINEKEN PORTUGUESE GRAND PRIX: PER – P7, STR – DNF
Back to Italy now for the final of the three races in the country, his time at Imola (Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari). Mercedes won their seventh consecutive World Championship – what an achievement.
For Racing Point, things seemed a little more negative this weekend. Due to the difference in weekend layout, there were no Friday sessions, meaning FP1 was held on Saturday morning, and it was the only practice session of the weekend. With both cars failing to make Q3 on Saturday afternoon, Pérez and Stroll qualified P11 and P15 respectively.
Pérez and Stroll both started on new Medium tyres for Sunday’s race. With just over ten laps to go, Verstappen’s spin and subsequent retirement brought out the Safety Car. Pérez managed to stay out on his Medium tyres until lap twenty-seven, and when the Safety Car was deployed, he pitted on lap fifty-one for new Soft tyres, removing his old Hard compound. Stroll pitted just after his teammate and hit his front-jack man as a result of cold brakes. Thankfully, the Racing Point mechanic was alright after such a chaotic pit-stop and was a little “bruised”, but OK.
FORMULA 1 EMIRATES EMILIA ROMAGNA GRAND PRIX: PER – P6, STR – P13
What a (Turkish) delight this weekend was for the Racing Point team.
Stroll managed to snatch pole from Verstappen with a time of 1:47.765 (compared to Verstappen’s 1:48.055). What a moment it was to see him cross the line and take that top spot, that all important Pole position for Sunday’s race. It was his first career Pole position and he was the first Canadian Polesitter since Jacques Villeneuve in 1997 (Jerez). Even better still, his teammate was behind him on the second row, starting in P3. The wet Qualifying session seemed to bring a lot of luck to Racing Point this weekend.
Stroll’s start from the top spot was absolutely perfect and he led the pack towards turn one, and he was soon followed directly by Pérez. A Racing Point one-two. Stroll pitted to switch to Intermediates on lap ten and Checo pitted one lap later. Come lap eighteen, Verstappen was challenging Pérez for second and he spun at turn eleven, allowing the pink car to create an even bigger gap between himself and the Red Bull. However, Checo was catching up to his teammate who was called to pit once more. Stroll’s race was going great, but after the stop on lap thirty-six for new Inters, his race started to go from bad to worse. Considering he was on such a high from his Pole position, the fact that he began to lose pace from front wing damage which the team were not aware of at the time, is truly heart-breaking. He could’ve been headed to another podium finish.
Pérez ended his race on the podium, after almost losing it in the last few corners. Such a good result for his side of the garage, but clear heartbreak on the other side.
FORMULA 1 DHL TURKISH GRAND PRIX: PER – P2, STR – P9
The Bahrain Grand Prix was completely overshadowed by Romain Grosjean’s accident on the first lap. An accident which, even just ten years ago, would have been fatal. The race was red flagged for over an hour while marshals and the FIA worked to replace the barrier and remove Grosjean’s damaged car, while Romain himself was treated at the medical centre and transferred to hospital in Bahrain.
The weekend was tough for the entire Racing Point team, with both cars having to retire. Stroll was involved in an incident which saw his car upside down, but thankfully, he was able to crawl out of his cockpit and to safety. Kvyat, who was involved in the incident with Stroll, was handed a ten-second penalty from the stewards. Pérez, meanwhile, was set to achieve another podium, but a late MGU-K failure saw his retirement, so close to the end.
A devastating weekend for the team, but with a positive that no retirement could compare to – knowing that Grosjean managed to walk away from such a terrifying accident was the only news that mattered after the Bahrain Grand Prix.
FORMULA 1 GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX: PER – DNF, STR – DNF
We raced once more in Bahrain, at the same venue, but this time, under a different name; the Sakhir Grand Prix, named after the location of the track. A seemingly better race for Racing Point; well-deserved redemption after the result from the previous weekend.
Two drivers on the podium. Sergio Pérez on the top step of the podium; his first ever Formula 1 win in his career, and on his 190th race start. The victory initially looked to be George Russell’s, as he took Hamilton’s seat while he was recovering from COVID-19, but that was taken away from the youngster after a tyre mix-up and a puncture. Hamilton was the third driver to test positive for the virus, after both Racing Point drivers themselves. The second victory for the team was seeing Stroll on the third podium step, taking his second third-place finish of 2020. A grand total of forty points was claimed by Racing Point and it gave them a good, strong lead in the battle for third in the Constructors’.
FORMULA 1 ROLEX SAKHIR GRAND PRIX: PER – P1, STR – P3
The final race of such a crazy season, one we never envisioned at the beginning of 2020. It felt quite surreal to know that the FIA and all those involved with F1 were able to bring us such an amazing season. Abu Dhabi was the final race of the year, and Checo’s final race with Racing Point, with no clear pathway for 2021… or so we all thought.
Stroll qualified P8, while Pérez started P19 after taking a penalty for using an additional gearbox. After his previous comebacks, the team and fans were hopeful for yet another. But, the hope disappeared when he retired due to a mechanical issue on lap ten, and the team’s chance of keeping that P3 in the Constructors’ was slowly getting smaller as the race went on. Stroll was only able to take one point, the last World Championship point, by the chequered flag. McLaren, the team’s closest rival for third, finished P5 and P6 in the race (Norris, Sainz), and they were able to snatch that third position from them, with only seven points splitting the two teams. Racing Point finished the 2020 season with a grand total of 195 points. Sergio Pérez took P4 in the Drivers’ Championship (125 points) and Lance Stroll took P11 (75 points), despite being on par in regards to points with AlphaTauri’s Gasly.
FORMULA 1 ETHIAD AIRWAYS ABU DHABI GRAND PRIX: PER – DNF, STR – P10
Looking forward to 2021, the team have a few, small changes. Pérez says goodbye to the team and he has recently been announced as a Red Bull driver for next year, where he will work alongside Max Verstappen.
Racing Point become Aston Martin F1 Team and will welcome four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel from Ferrari. After such a dominant year compared to previous ones and with a World Champion like Vettel onboard, it will be interesting to see how Racing Point will do next year. With the hope of fulfilling the twenty-three-race calendar, unlike this year as a result of COVID, the excitement is already building, especially to see how Vettel will do as he partners Stroll.
A great 2020, but here’s to an even better 2021.
Photo Credit: RacingPointF1 on Twitter