Stroll’s Racing Point seat was never in danger

Jamie Woodhouse


Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer has confirmed that Sergio Perez was always the driver set to make way for Sebastian Vettel.

On the Thursday before the Tuscan Grand Prix Racing Point turned rumour into reality when they announced that Sebastian Vettel would join the team for 2021 for their first season under the Aston Martin identity.

Vettel was informed before the 2020 campaign began that he wouldn’t be receiving a new contract at Ferrari, and so far the four-time World Champion has looked a shadow of his former self, making several errors and finding himself P13 in the Drivers’ Championship, whilst team-mate Charles Leclerc is P7 in the standings with two podiums to his name.

But Vettel will get a chance to prove himself again at Aston Martin in 2021, with Perez, the driver who helped save the team from bankruptcy in 2018, making way for Vettel.

The team is owned by Lawrence Stroll, father of Perez’s Racing Point team-mate Lance Stroll.

So, it’s no surprise then that Szafnauer confirmed there is no exit clause in Stroll’s contract, so Perez was always the one who would have to be released to make space for Vettel.

“Lance has been with us for a couple of years. He’s a young man at 21 years old. And yeah, his father does own the team,” he said in a press conference ahead of the Tuscan Grand Prix.

“So when we look to make a driver change because Sebastian became available, it would have been Checo. There are options in his contract, and those options didn’t exist for Lance.”

Szafnauer did admit that the team will be losing certain qualities that Perez brings when he walks away at the end of the year.

But for the same reason he hopes that the Mexican racer is still on the grid in 2021.

“[Sergio] knows the team well,” he said.

“He’s got loads of experience. He’s a tenacious racer come Sunday. He’s a good qualifier, rarely makes mistakes, and brings on the points.

“If there’s a sniff of a podium, he’s usually there. So yeah, we are giving away quite a bit. And I wish Checo best of luck, and he deserves to be in Formula 1. I hope that he can find a spot and we’ll race against him next year.”

Get your hands on the official Racing Point 2020 collection via the Formula 1 store

As for Vettel, Szafnauer believes a driver of his calibre is needed alongside the Aston Martin investment for the team to take that next big step forward.

“With Aston Martin coming in and a bit of financial backing behind the team, [we’ve] a new factory happening in Silverstone, improving the team, adding 20% more personnel,” he revealed.

“We’ve got some infrastructure too that we’re embarking on to make us go faster. And therefore, a driver like Sebastian, who brings with him the experience of winning four world championships and 53 races, can only be beneficial for us.

“He will help us take that next step that we all need to take in the coming years, such that we can consistently race among the top three or top four teams.”

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