Lance Stroll, Force India, Yas Marina

Stroll ‘at Ocon’s level in simulator’ – Szafnauer

2019 F1 season

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Lance Stroll matched his Racing Point predecessor Esteban Ocon’s performance in their simulator, according to team principal Otmar Szafnauer.

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The team, which was known as Force India before it was taken over by Stroll’s father Lawrence, has replaced Ocon with the 20-year-old for the 2019 F1 season.

Stroll had a seat fitting at the team in August shortly after his father’s consortium completed its asset purchase. He was widely expected to replace Ocon for next year, and the move was announced after Stroll drove the team’s car in the post-season test at Yas Marina.

“Lance absolutely loved his time in the car,” said Szafnauer in an interview for the official F1 website. “He said the car could do the things that he wants the car to do, which is good.

“And we were duly impressed with Lance. We were already impressed with him when he ran in the simulator, he was on the pace very quickly, up to Esteban’s level in the simulator.

“We were just hoping that the pace he showed in the simulator would translate onto the track and it did. He was very quick on track too.”

Szafnauer said the team has identified the first areas it needs to work on with its new driver.

“We’ve got some good potential there in Lance and we’ll work with him to hopefully teach him some things we know about how to drive the tyre and how to preserve it, make it go quick and last over the stint. We’ll do that with him, help him qualify better too.

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“But he brings some great skills. He’s quick, he usually does a great job at the start, over the first lap he usually makes up places so we’re looking forward to work with him.”

The departure of the highly-rated Ocon in favour of Stroll, who has largely failed to impress since making his F1 debut last year, prompted some complaints about the advantages wealthy drivers enjoy in the sport.

Szafnauer said he considers Ocon a “champion of the future” and suggested his connection to Mercedes had limited his options for next season.

“Esteban’s young enough, Esteban had opportunities this year but they weren’t forthcoming I think due to his management structure. It’s just how Formula 1 is.

“However I think in time those guys with the talent will come to the forefront, their talent will rise.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 56 comments on “Stroll ‘at Ocon’s level in simulator’ – Szafnauer”

    1. So if Ocon is a future champ and Stroll is as good as Ocon..

      1. He said the car could do the things that he wants the car to do

        If Stroll could won F3 with the best machinery, we should not surprise if he become F1 champion in a Mercedes.

        1. @ruliemaulana I’d be extremely surprised unless his teammate is a potato.

          1. @tonyyeb Which would leave Mercedes with two potatoes for drivers. Would it not just save a lot of time, hassle, travel and money if we just rolled them down a hill to see which potato was faster instead? Rather than this whole building cars nonsense.

            1. @bernasaurus Shhhhh! Be careful otherwise your idea will be stolen by Bernie!

            2. @bernasaurus @tonyyeb

              Nice to see you guys trying to hash out a solution. ;O)

      2. Well, he didn’t actually say that Stroll was as good as Ocon though.

        He just said that his simulator performance is “up to” the level of Estaban. Which could mean that he barely “touches” the level Ocon can manage every time. Then again, I too believe that there IS talent in Stroll, but he probably needs far more work to extract that “up to Ocon level” regularly in reallity.

        1. Well spotted @bascb; also, if these guys can bring out the talent we haven’t really seen last year in Stroll, more power to them and him.

        2. @bascb You are reaching to extract from what OS has said the least possible in the way of compliments, as he has said far more flattering things than you have decided to twist it to portray. That said, I get it that Stroll will have to prove his worth on the track. Ocon isn’t exactly the highest of standards to aspire to, but for me Stroll will inevitably do better since the majority of the game is having the car with which to show something. So far it sounds like Lance is enjoying a better car.

          1. Yes, I chose to highlight how that comment is very cleverly formulated that it could be the truth regardless of how good Stroll compares to Ocon. It leaves open the potential of him being as good as Ocon, just as well as it can be a nice way to say Lance is barely touching Esteban’s level. That was deliberate @robbie.
            Ocon seems to be clearly ahead of Stroll on talent and on sheer speed from what we have seen so far. But Lance has been somewhat more solid in his race craft than Ocon at least this year – Ocon has had quite a few needless incidents at the early phase of races recently.

            I am certain there is potential in Lance – and having a solid midfield car that behaves well should be exactly what a driver like he needs to develop his skills to become a solid addition to the grid. No doubt he enjoyed finally driving an F1 car that does not misbehave!

            1. @bascb Well said. Too bad we haven’t seen Ocon in a 2017/2018 Williams to see if he actually could have done much better than Stroll. Ocon has simply had a better car in order to show us something. That’s also put him in the mix more to show us a few errors too. I’m sure Stroll will be feeling some pressure to show us more than he has been able.

        3. Agreed, Stroll’s problem is not lack of talent but the way he can make use of it under stress.

    2. On the podcast didn’t Otmar also said that he (Stroll) was also as fast on track?
      I don’t know if he is being diplomatic or not, but if Stroll really ends up being faster than Perez then that would be fun

      1. @okeptl

        I don’t know if he is being diplomatic or not

        He’ll say it if he wants his next pay cheque.

        1. @todfod

          LOL! Perez might want to calm himself down a little bit then, if he wants to keep his seat

    3. I hope stroll does well actually. Force India has made small steps forward towards the front-runners of F1, since multiple years now, despite being ill-equipped in comparison to them. For the sake of the team, I hope stroll is atleast decent.

    4. If Stroll is on Ocon’s level on pure pace, then that must mean Sirotkin might just be F1’s next Fernando Alonso.

      1. And what does it say about Massa?

    5. Thank you posting this – could use a good laugh this morning.

      With that logic I should get a Mercedes drive because I won all races in 2018 championship on the PC :-)

      1. @jelle-van-der-meer: Fine. But I’m pushing Gasly out of the RBR seat, because I won 3.

        Wherever the Strolls go, duly impressive words follow. A coincidence?

      2. @jelle-van-der-meer so I m out of F1 because only Sirotkin likes my driving on instagram. I offered myself for the Williams drive but Kubica got me

    6. Otmar: And we were duly impressed with Lance. We were already impressed with him when he ran in the simulator, he was on the pace very quickly, up to Esteban’s level in the simulator.

      – interviewer leaves room –

      Otmar: “Laurence, could you please stop burning my toes under the table now?!”

      1. Otmar: Can you now tell your daddy that he can pay my wages now?

    7. To be fair, being up to Ocon’s speed in the simulator could have been a completely honest observation. He must have watched on as Lance navigated the menus before driving …

      1. LMAO.

        Either that.. or Ocon has been the most rubbish simulator driver Force India has ever had.

    8. Stroll has to steam roll Perez next season. I dont consider Perez to be a very high level driver. He is a reliable safe driver. So Stroll must deliver.

      1. I don’t think he has to steam roll him. Even if as the newbie he matches the one who is engrained on the team, that will show us that it was the Williams that was holding LS back.

      2. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
        13th December 2018, 23:29

        I rate Perez a bit higher than that. Sure, he’s had his lapses of judgement, but 3 of 4 podiums in the last 3 seasons not snatched by RB/mercedes/Ferrari were scored by Perez . That also says something. perez has handled himself well against drivers like Hulkenberg and even Ocon, and even though the latter did devellop a slight edge over Perez, ocon is rated as a future winner….

    9. – I must say we are very disappointed by the son of our new boss, this very boss that pays our wages and owns everything here. His performance isn’t good enough and I really hope I do get fired at the end of this conference.

      1. Anyone that already worked with the child of his boss knows how toxic it is.

    10. And so the propaganda begins

      1. And what team principal wouldn’t be as complimentary to one of their drivers for the coming season, under any and all circumstances? You wouldn’t call it propaganda if what OS said was about a driver you like.

        1. @robbie

          Maybe propaganda is the wrong word.. but it’s pretty sickening to see a more worthy talent to lose a seat to a driver who’s dad bought him a team. Then the team principal distastefully draws comparisons between the exiting driver and the one who’s entering.

          Lance as fast as Ocon?!?! Heck, Lance wasn’t even as fast as Sirotkin.. a driver rated #20 in the rankings this year. If Lance is as fast as Ocon, he’s faster than Perez. Just think about how ridiculous the statement is, and then think about the desperate attempt made by team Stroll to justify Lance’s seat.

          1. @todfod I don’t share your anti-Stroll sentiment but hey, that’s just the way you feel about him and the Stroll’s and their money so, so be it.

            What I would say is that I’m not convinced Ocon would have looked any better than Stroll if he was at Williams, so since drivers are coloured by their cars I think we need to just see Lance in a better car and then we will know if he is wasting a seat in F1 or not. I’m not trying to ‘sell’ Lance on anybody but I am willing to defend him when overwhelmingly it does seem that he has had only terrible cars in his two years so far. We know WDC’s almost always need the WCC car to win their drivers titles. Ie. we know the car is crucial. We have no choice but to see what LS can do next year and to claim someone else would have done better in those Williams is pure speculation. Sirotkin nor Kubica have done anything noteworthy more than LS. Drivers are coloured by their cars and that is as apparent as ever when it comes to the general sentiment surrounding Lance Stroll. I’ll be the first to admit he doesn’t belong, if he falls flat on his face in a car that will presumably be as competitive next year as it was this year. What I do know of Lance is that money or not, this is what he has wanted to do his whole life, and you don’t buy that kind of passion…you just have to have it.

            1. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
              13th December 2018, 23:40

              getting beaten in practise by Kubica, who hadn’t driven the car nearly as much (presumably), didn’t look good… He was also really dire in Monaco.

              would still rather see him help Racing point/force india/stroll GP/whatever forward than mess this chance up

            2. @robbie

              I get that you’re giving him the benefit of the doubt…and that’s fair enough. Although it’s hard to agree with a few things

              What I would say is that I’m not convinced Ocon would have looked any better than Stroll if he was at Williams

              There is just no way in hell Ocon would be Out qualified by Sirotkin. It’s hard to say how Sirotkin would have performed if we had a stronger Williams as well. I reckon he’d start in front of Stroll more often and maybe even have a few cars between them. If Williams had a car as competitive as Force india, I think Sirotkin would have convincingly beaten Stroll in the points as well.

              but I am willing to defend him when overwhelmingly it does seem that he has had only terrible cars in his two years so far.

              I don’t remember the Williams challenger last year being such a terrible car. It was a strong midfield contender.. Which is more than enough for a rookie to show his talent. Heck, Leclerc and Gasly have had more inferior cars in their rookie seasons and they’ve shown enough talent to land a Ferrari and Red bull drive for themselves.

              Drivers with far more talent than Stroll have had lesser time in F1. None of them have been promoted…and none of them have had their father but them a team and a team principal sing their false praises. So try and understand why I’m on the anti Stroll bandwagon as well.

            3. Of course it is pure speculation on your part as to how Ocon would have done vs Sirotkin. You’ve had the luxury of seeing Ocon in a better car in which to show us something, so he naturally appears better.

              To call the 2017 Williams a strong midfield contender is to just look at their 5th place standing and look no further. They managed a mere 83 points in the WCC. They beat 5 very weak teams with a weak showing themselves. Two cars that only managed 83 points, 43 of them from the engrained veteran on the team, is plenty of evidence that the cars were very problematic. This year’s car was sometimes slower than last year’s.

              I think you resent Stroll and the Stroll family money and therefore refuse to acknowledge that Lance has the qualifications to be in F1, and is. Your fallback to his daddy buying him a team ignores that it was a group of investors that are not relatives of Lance, and that it was an opportunity due to things with Mallya and Force India that Stroll and group had no control of until FI fell apart, and they jumped in. Had that not happened Stroll would not have bought a team with a group of investors, that we are aware of anyway.

              Besides, this unfairness that you decry is not the first unfairness and won’t be the last wrt who should and shouldn’t be in an F1 seat. I think it is unfair of you to assume a driver can get where Stroll is by pure money alone. I think you just instinctively should know that if any old millionaire or billionaire could simply spend money they have to burn, and see their sons get to the level of qualifying to be in F1, like money is the only ingredient for success, we’d have seen a lot of that by now, and you likely would never have even bothered with F1, such would be your disgust at it just being a money game. Money can buy equipment, but it can’t be the driver behind the wheel in those junior, spec series in which Lance succeeded against no doubt some other wealthy competitors.

            4. @robbie

              To call the 2017 Williams a strong midfield contender is to just look at their 5th place standing and look no further. They managed a mere 83 points in the WCC

              Man.. I don’t even know what to say to you on this. Ive been more sure of a driver’s potential in a manor, Minardi and Sauber. Maybe you just aren’t looking well enough or maybe turning a blind eye to the sheer rubbish performances Lance put in 2017.
              Either way.. If you think a driver with lances talent deserved anything better than a 2017 Williams… Then you’re just kidding yourself.

              I think you resent Stroll and the Stroll family money and therefore refuse to acknowledge that Lance has the qualifications to be in F1, and is.

              I resent pay drivers in general. It’s a harsh reminder that some other more deserving driver lost his seat to someone with a fatter wallet. But a pay driver who buys his own team is not just a slap in the face of F1 but a general insult to the integrity of sport. We don’t see this happening in any sport and I resent the fact that it happens in a sport I closely follow.
              I don’t care about the consortium of investors lead by his dad and the circumstances that lead to it. At the end of the day the most rubbish driver in the grid just got promoted instead of sacked.

              Money can buy equipment, but it can’t be the driver behind the wheel

              Let me correct that for you – money can buy a team and place any driver behind the wheel

            5. @todfod I just think LS’s talent might be hidden by bad cars, one of which he was a rookie in. We will get an idea next year of who is closer to being right about him, you or me. I also think you should direct your anger toward BE’s F1 for bringing the teams to the point of actually needing the likes of pay drivers like the Stroll’s, whereas in the past it was more of a choice. In a perfect world F1 should have always been about the best of the best being on the grid rather than questionable drivers with big wallets. Is it the Stroll’s fault that teams such as Williams would be interested in a qualified driver who also can bring big money? If it wasn’t the Stroll’s it would be someone else, so I think your resentment is a bit misplaced. Perhaps not. I think you do know that pay drivers are not new but that the need for them has never been greater for the lesser teams. The Strolls haven’t harmed the integrity of the sport…BE has. I think if Brawn has his way F1 would be back to being hard enough to compete in as a driver that no teenager could survive, and that you’d have to be a man with more experience to stand a chance or be eaten alive.

            6. @robbie

              Of course I realise that Be and the Fom is general are to blame for the creation of an eco system where pay drivers thrive. It’s fair to say i despise Be, the Fom and pay drivers who take advantage of this eco system with equal intensity.

    11. The track result will be the final judgement.

    12. Surely they want him to be better, not just on par?

    13. This looks like a press release purely to entice new investors or steady existing ones.

      1. Then all team principals can be accused of the same as they speak of their drivers for the upcoming season.

    14. I don’t rate Stroll and I don’t particularly like the way he’s bought his way into F1, but I really hope he develops into a very good driver and isn’t embarrassed by Perez.

      He’s going to be around for the next 10 years or so whether I like it or not, so I’d much prefer a quick, exciting version of Stroll to emerge than for him to just carry on as a disappointing, convenient piñata for us to bash until the day he retires.

      1. Ditto – well said.

    15. I have such mixed feelings about Stroll. On one hand I like feeling like a contrarian and would love to see him do well to watch everyone have to eat their words. On the other I would love for him to be absolutely demolished by Perez because it would be absolutely hilarious watching the team try to justify his performances.

      One positive is that either way I’ll have a good laugh I guess.

    16. He Is Better than people think and Nex year he Will be a surprise

    17. What else would Szaf say? With papa Stroll’s money, there’s no way he’ll bad mouth the little Stroll

    18. Similar performance level in the simulator doesn’t necessarily translate to on-track, but it is a start.
      There was reference to areas to improve, qualifying, tyre management and familiarity with the car.
      He was complimentary to Lance’s record of first lap position gains. Yes partly due to poor qualifying, but a little credit is due when you consider how few first lap incidents he was involved in. Not all other drivers can claim the same.
      Can Lance win at this ….?? I doubt it. Perez has the experience and history with the team and the car. He should be consistently better than an almost rookie team-mate. That is what we should expect. If Lance gets close, I can hear the comments already, Perez is past due, the car suits Lance better, the car is so good a monkey could drive it , the team is favoring Lance ….
      For better or worse, we are just going to have to wait a few months (painful as that might be) to see where the chips fall.
      While I am no fan of the current rules and regs, we have to live with them and look forward to what should be an exciting season.

    19. It will be a stroll in the park.

    20. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
      13th December 2018, 23:35

      Hit verstappen 9 times out of 10 in the simulator

      A bit more serious though, I don’t really buy it. Stroll might ultimately turn out to be reasonably competative given a decent car (and I hope he is, the team’s future might be influenced heavily by this), but I’d never rate him as high as Ocon. Considering how much Stroll struggled when his car doesn’t really work (which we also saw in 2017 on high-downforce tracks), I think he’s not gonna get half as muchg points as Perez or Ocon’d manage. He’d still claim some, no doubt. Force India had a strong low downforce package, so we can expect good showings in Monza and Baku, but as a sporting decision, I think its a bad one. Might really hinder them against Haas in particular…

    21. Employee says boss’s son is good.
      No surprise there. Wouldn’t most of us spin that line to ensure we kept our job?
      However, I can’t say I believe he believes what he is saying!

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