February 13, 2019 / 8:57 PM / a year ago

Motor racing: Stroll ready to take a lead role in the family F1 business

TORONTO (Reuters) - Lance Stroll may be the favored son at Racing Point, the Formula One team his billionaire father Lawrence bought last year, but the Canadian will still have to deliver the goods for the family business.

SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team driver Lance Stroll poses after unveiling the team's new car livery at a pre-season launch event at the Canadian International AutoShow in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

The 20-year-old driver, a veteran of two seasons with Williams, cannot expect an easy ride from Mexican team mate Sergio Perez either.

The pairing of the boss’s son with the 29-year-old veteran who was with the Silverstone-based team in their previous incarnation as Force India, could be both intriguing and potentially explosive this season.

Stroll, who has long chafed at the suggestion his progress owes much to parental cash, told Reuters at a team livery launch on Wednesday that he was ready to roll his sleeves up for his new team.

“It’s a family business. He (Lawrence Stroll) has put me on the turf and I have to get my hands dirty,” he said.

“I’m not kicking my feet up in my chair, I am going to be hustling and it is a great opportunity for me as a racing driver, a big stepping stone in my career.

“It’s a great opportunity for my father and the Stroll family, we are putting our heart and soul into Racing Point. He has been in my corner since day one and to be working alongside him is an amazing opportunity.”

With a Canadian owner, a Canadian driver and several Canadian sponsors, Racing Point made history at the Canadian International Autoshow on Wednesday as the first Formula One team to launch in North America.

While the relationship between Perez and Stroll was nowhere near as frosty as the brutal winter weather outside, there was an undeniable chill as the elephant in the auditorium was addressed.

During a question and answer session both drivers were asked if they looked forward to being in a competitive car against each other.

When the time for pictures came, a photographer setting up the photo suggested: “Lance pretend you like him.”

That triggered a great laugh from the crowd, along with an uncomfortable shuffle and smile from the two drivers.

When pushed, Stroll offered the Mexican some small platitudes.

Perez, who has made 155 Grand Prix starts and reached the podium eight times, was more direct.

“The approach for me is the same. I want to have a good relationship with my team mate because it is important to have atmosphere between engineers, drivers,” he told Reuters.

“I am really looking forward to work with Lance. To see what he is good at, what he is weak at.”

While Perez’s credentials are well established, Stroll has yet to convince many even though he reached the podium in his rookie season before struggling last year in one of the worst cars Williams have ever built.

Racing Point, as Force India, have a history of punching above their weight. But with the new financial muscle brought by Stroll senior and his consortium partners, the team can hope to be challenging the frontrunners again.

“It is important we take a good step forward in 2019. We want to be fighting for podiums and aim for a strong top-four finish,” said team principal Otmar Szafnauer.

Editing by Pritha Sarkar

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