TORONTO — Even if he is racing for a new Formula 1 team whose name was only revealed as it showed off its first car Wednesday, Canada’s Lance Stroll did not hesitate to say SportPesa Racing Point will be aiming for the podium this season.
The newest F1 team and the car it will drive in 21 races this season — beginning March 17 in Melbourne, Australia — were unveiled at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on Wednesday.
It’s the first time in the history of racing that an F1 team has unveiled its new car in Canada. The significance did not escape Francois Dumontier, promoter of the Canadian Grand Prix, held annually in Montreal.
“It’s exceptional,” he said. “There is an important message there from the team: Even if it is based in Silverstone (U.K.), it is a Canadian team. The message to Canadians is, ‘We’re at home,’ and the team’s management understands the importance of Canada in this sport.”
Stroll was joined by his Mexican teammate Sergio Perez at the event. Formerly known as Force India, the team was bought last August by a group of businessmen led by the Canadian driver’s father, Quebec billionaire Lawrence Stroll.
The part-owner raised a toast to the new team at the end of the event and said it was his son’s idea to hold the launch in Canada.
“It’s a dream come true, that’s what I can say about it,” Lance Stroll said. “I rolled out of bed this morning, and I was a little jet-lagged, but just the idea of that, it really puts a smile on my face.”
Stroll and Perez, dressed in their team’s pink and blue racing uniforms, said they are excited to begin a new era in racing. Perez will be Stroll’s third teammate in as many F1 seasons, succeeding Felipe Massa and Sergei Sirotkin, but the two are not strangers.
Stroll, 20, recalled that he first met Perez in 2011 when he moved from Quebec to Europe to pursue his international karting career. Perez at the time was just beginning his Formula 1 career. The Mexican joked that Stroll “was a little kid” when they met, and Stroll praised Perez’s driving skills.
It was about 20 minutes into the event when Stroll and Perez pulled back a black cover to reveal the race car with pink as the dominant colour. The new front and back wings, required by 2019 F1 rules, attracted the most attention.
In January, Racing Point technical director Andy Green told Motorsport.com that preliminary simulation tests with the new wings produced “the worst possible outcome.” On Wednesday he tempered his comments, saying engineers will focus on the middle and front of the car this season.
Stroll said he has not yet driven the car on the track, and he prefers to remain optimistic about the season. The aerodynamic changes will affect everyone, he said, but he thinks they could allow certain teams to shake up the established F1 hierarchy.
He said he is not feeling pressure to post better results after finishing a disappointing 18th among all drivers last year. Instead, it will motivate him, he said.
Racing Point will put its new car to the test starting Monday, when the first round of F1 winter testing will be held on Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.
Alexandre Geoffrion-McInnis, The Canadian Press