The switch was known for some time, but Racing Point Force India have finally announced that Lance Stroll will compete for the team in the 2019 season, which has now been confirmed to be renamed as Racing Point F1.
The father of Lance Stroll, Lawrence Stroll, led a consortium which bought out the Force India team during this season’s summer break, which immediately put Stroll Jr. as the favourite for a seat at the Silverstone team for 2019.
It was thought that Stroll could’ve joined the team for the closing races of this season, but Force India saw out the remainder of the season with Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon.
Despite yet not being confirmed as a Force India driver, Stroll took part in the end-of-season test in Abu Dhabi with the team.
“I’m pleased that we can finally confirm Lance’s arrival to race alongside Sergio next year. It gives us an exciting line-up with the perfect blend of youth, talent, and experience,” confirmed team principal and CEO Otmar Szafnauer.
“Lance is only twenty and already has two years of Formula One experience under his belt, as well as a podium finish and a front row start.
“We see huge potential in Lance and believe we can create an environment in which he can flourish. Our team has enjoyed great success nurturing and developing young and talented drivers, and we are very excited to begin our journey with Lance.
“I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Esteban Ocon for his contribution to the team over the last two seasons and wish him well for the future.”
‘Force India’ name disappears after eleven seasons
The Stroll-backed consortium bought out the Formula One team during the summer break, but they had to retain the Force India name due to the regulations stating that the chassis name (in this case, the Force India VJM11) has to be linked to the team name.
Therefore, they were temporarily named Racing Point Force India for the second half of 2018 to make their entry legal.
The 2019 season will be their first opportunity to complete the re-branding of the team and have a chassis name of their choice.
This means that the Force India name will disappear from Formula One altogether, a name which has been present since the 2008 season, following Vijay Mallya’s successful acquisition of the Spyker team at the tail-end of 2007.
Despite initially struggling for competitiveness, the team first showed signs of being able to punch above their financial weight in 2009, when they took advantage of the car’s capabilities on the high-speed circuits and took their first pole position at the Belgian Grand Prix. In the hands of Giancarlo Fisichella, they went on to take their first points and podium with a second place finish in the same event.
They came close to repeating the podium result with Adrian Sutil at the following race in Monza, but the team were set up to become regular point-scorers from 2010 onward.
They were unfortunate not to register another podium sooner, finishing fourth at the Singapore and Belgian Grands Prix in 2012 as well the 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix. They might’ve won a race altogether had Nico Hulkenberg not crashed out in the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix.
The team really came alive during the turbo-hybrid era, where their decision to stay with Mercedes power reaped rewards.
They took their second podium with Sergio Perez – who would become a key figure for the team – at the 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix, and registered their personal best points haul of 155 points.
A personal best championship position of fifth place followed in 2015, along with another podium for Perez in Russia.
Perez took another two podiums in 2016 at Monaco and Azerbaijan as the team went one better in the championship and finished 4th, repeating the feat again in 2017 with the rapid pairing of Perez and Esteban Ocon.
Despite their successes on a small budget, the team were in trouble financially, and were forced into administration by Perez, his backers, and other creditors.
The acquisition by Lawrence Stroll sees financial security for the Silverstone team and with it the hope that one of the best ‘bang for buck’ teams on the grid will finally have the resources to continue their climb up the Formula One grid.
All images: Motorsport Images
By: Luke Murphy
How well do you think Lance Stroll will do against Sergio Perez? What are your thoughts on the ‘Racing Point’ brand? Leave your comments in the section below.