Team mate battles 2020: The final score – Perez vs Stroll

2020 F1 season review

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In little more than a year, Racing Point went from signing a new, three-season contract with Sergio Perez to tearing the deal up to make way for Sebastian Vettel.

Did Perez get shown up in his second season alongside a comparatively inexperienced younger team mate? Not a bit of it; if anything, that description applies far better to driver he is being replaced with.

For the sixth year in a row, Perez was the top scorer of the two drivers at Racing Point (formerly Force India). This was despite the fact he missed two races early in the season after testing positive for Covid-19. Lance Stroll also had to sit a race out for the same reason, and may have taken a harder hit from the virus than his team mate, as he was not on top form in the races which immediately followed his return.

Stroll, however, put a star turn in at Istanbul Park, where he took pole position and led much of the race. Perez might well have beaten him on the drying track in Q3, but was held up behind Antonio Giovinazzi on his final run. Stroll led much of the race until his pace dropped off, which the team said was caused by damage to his front wing, forcing an extra pit stop.

Perez scored a shock win in the Sakhir Grand Prix
This was one of few occasions when Stroll out-qualified Perez. Having lost 18-2 to his team mate last year, Perez’s margin was 10-4 in 2020. Most worryingly for Stroll, the lap time gap between them widened over the course of the season. This counterintuitive performance was curiously reminiscent of his first season in Formula 1, where over the final races Felipe Massa was substantially quicker than him in qualifying at the end of the year.

In other respects Stroll was closer to Perez’s pace, and even spent the majority of racing laps as the team’s leading car. Istanbul wasn’t the only occasion when Perez moved ahead of his team mate while rebounding from a setback in qualifying.

It says a lot about how disrupted Racing Point’s season was that only eight times in 17 races did Perez and Stroll both reach the chequered flag. They were tied 4-4 in terms of who was classified ahead, though this flatters Stroll somewhat as he took the chequered flag behind Perez in Spain, but befitted from his team mate’s post-race penalty. Perez could also point to the Italian Grand Prix as a race which swung the balance in Stroll’s favour, thanks to the timing of the red flag.

While Racing Point’s decisions on its driver line-up are clearly influenced by family ties, at no point did they issue team orders which advantaged Stroll over Perez. Nonetheless for the second time in three years this team has shown the door to the driver who was their top qualifier over the course of the season. In 2018 Esteban Ocon, who beat Perez 16-5, was ousted to make way for Stroll after his father Lawrence bought the team.

Now the same has happened to Perez. Racing Point built the third-quickest car this year, yet placed fourth in the championship. How can they hope to reverse that situation if they keep getting rid of their quickest driver?

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Positive gap: Lance Stroll was ahead; Negative gap: Sergio Perez was ahead

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Race-by-race summary: Perez vs Stroll

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Sergio PerezQ
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Lance StrollQ
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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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38 comments on “Team mate battles 2020: The final score – Perez vs Stroll”

  1. I think the second half of the season is pretty damning for Stroll in terms of match up as for the early part of the year he got the run of the green and results went his way making things look better than they were for him. It’s crazy that they managed to lose third in the championship as a team. Sure Mclaren did excel at times but ultimately they also had a lot of reliability issues this year that cost them big points too so there is no excuse for Racing Point finishing 4th.

    1. I actually think that being thrown out put Perez in a “to heck with it, I’ll show you all” mode and boosted his qualifying performances as well as his determination to make things work in the race.

    2. Well in the end they lost those crucial 15 points due to that “Pink Mercedes thing” and the gap between them and Mclaren was smaller than that so I think it was fair. How quick they would have been without that copy-paste car?

  2. Yeah, it is pretty clear which driver at RP did the better job, was the better driver.

    1. I think that’s true @bascb, although if you’d asked me I’d have said that the gap was bigger than it actually is. In particular if you’d asked me who had spent more racing laps ahead of the other I’d have had no hesitation in suggesting Perez.

      1. If we take just 2 races – Turkey and the second Bahrain race, it points to where Stroll has been ahead, I guess.

        But I do think that Stroll also showed he is quite a decent drivers.

        1. Decent drivers drive Taxi, not F1 cars. He’s fine, but we can’t say he’s better than anyone else, except maybe less experienced (in F1) versions of himself, like his fellow Canadian Latifi.

  3. “at no point did they issue team orders which advantaged Stroll over Perez.”
    Disagree with above as whenever there was only 1 available of a new par/upgrade – Stroll always got it first.
    Although not nearly as bad as with Ferrari there have been a few questionable pitstop calls.

    1. @jelle-van-der-meer Team orders usually refers to on track instructions such as giving up position to your team mate. Deciding who gets spare parts is more of an overall team favouritism or team strategy decision. So I think the comment about team orders was fair.

    2. Think you’ll find that was when Stroll was ahead in points early on. Giving upgrades to the driver ahead on points has always happened in F1

      1. @hsvdt15 That was coincidentally true and convenient for the team, but had nothing to do with who got the parts!

        It’s a bit like the situation with Red Bull in 2010 where Webber didn’t get full team backing for the title even though he was their best chance because his team-mate was also in with a (smaller) chance (but had the shoe been on the other foot it was obvious that it would have been a narrative of ‘we have to put our effort behind the driver with the best chance’). Again it worked out conveniently for them but in reality may not have been the sensible decision.

      2. @hsvdt15 – If Hamilton had two DNFs in the first two races, do you think Bottas would get the new parts if Mercedes only had one?

  4. Most worryingly for Stroll, the lap time gap between them widened over the course of the season.

    I don’t really have anything to base this on, other than the occasional rumour or comment somewhere, but I wonder if this trend has anything to do with Lance having access to more testing opportunities of previous years’ F1 cars in the off season. This could explain why he starts the season relatively sharp compared to his competitors, but loses that advantage throughout the season as his rivals shake off any rustiness and get more in the groove.

    Or it could be something completely unrelated and it’s just that Stroll takes less time to get comfortable with a new car, but has less progression throughout the year.

    1. Stroll was never really a qualifying beast over even lesser teammates, so it stands to reason that when Perez kicked it up a notch during the latter part of the season, Stroll didn’t really have an answer for him in that regard.

  5. inb4 hate comments towards the second driver

    1. It’s not hate, but respect has to be deserved. The way he came to F1 was sad, but nothing new for F1. But to have better drivers fired so he could drive, buying a team and firing someone more talented, than firing someone who destroyed him and have overtaken him with slower tires a few times this season just to add salt to the wound… Why the hell would anyone like the guy? As soon as he gives me a reason I might.

      1. Maybe people like him because he’s more mature than Max?
        I’m suspecting that this is secret hate.

      2. I have respect for him to be honest. He’s not naturally talented like many of them out there and whilst I hate the reason that he’s in F1, he’s in F1 and is not looking massively slower than some of his vastly more talented peers.

        He’s up against some of the best drivers in the world so as someone who is only in F1 because he has a rich dad, he’s doing alright.

        1. @petebaldwin Agreed, Stroll’s done an OK job for not having the raw pace of others. I did guffwah during the Sakhir GP at the moment when he “went a little deep” on his braking point after pitting, in the battle with Ocon & Perez, letting them thru. Seemed like a foolish mistake in the heat of the moment. He also said “He could have won the race”. But then didn’t have the pace to pass Ocon and Perez on merit towards the end… So how could you have won it there Strolly? I just thought it was funny. But hey, seizing P3 is still hardware material. Not bad!

  6. Jose Lopes da Silva
    17th December 2020, 13:32

    Lance Stroll has this positive aspect for Formula 1: the driver still matters.

  7. @keithcollantine I know this is not related to this topic but how about using this platform to give Daniil Kvyat a proper goodbye to celebrate his moments in F1? He’s given us a lot of great moments over the past 7 years and the kid’s gone through the wringer more than anyone on the grid.

    To other members, please let us know if you like the idea of throwing a “virtual goodbye party” for Dani.

    1. that’s not a bad idea. I can’t remember many great moments though apart from the last few races

  8. We’ ll never know to what extent covid really affected both drivers. But it’s a fact that they were beaten in the races immediately after they returned (and in Perez’s case already in Hungary where he wasn’t feeling fine).
    It could only be a coincidence and undoubtedly they had bad luck in those races as well. But than again we had Hamilton who arguably for the first time this year couldn’t mach Bottas on pace after his recovery.

    1. Pérez lost at Barcelona because he had a 5s penalty for ignoring blue flags. He qualified and finished ahead of Stroll despite having a worse start that put him behind Lance for the first stint.

      1. Yeah, the blue flag thing… I remember. But on most other races Perez especially over a race distance was just so much faster than Stroll that a 5 seconds penalty wouldn’t have changed the outcome.

  9. The gap between Perez and Stroll is quite underestimated in the following ways not mentioned already in the article (where match-ups are possible):

    Perez did not pit under an early safety car in Spa and was at the back when he made his stop. Coming from the back of the field he finished only a half second behind Stroll who undoubtedly had the faster strategy.

    Perez was well ahead in Monza, dicing with the McLarens in the early part of the race when he had a disastrous pit stop that dropped him out of the top 10. Stroll inherited the lead (after Hamilton who had a penalty) after only stopping during the red flag, and made a mess of the restart which cost him a shot at the win.

    Potential podiums went begging for Perez in Austria, Imola, and Bahrain. One big engine failure and two other questionable decisions under late race safety cars.

    Perez’s only qualy lap in Abu Dhabi Q1 was quicker than what Stroll managed in all of qualifying, and half a second faster in the same session.

    Hungary was the first post-COVID race for Perez. Given on evidence this season that every driver post-COVID has taken a race (or two) to bounce back, I would discount that performance somewhat, as I would Stroll’s at Portimao.

    Perez also had an older car for a few races, most notably in Mugello. He still outqualified Stroll.

    Given that there were so many mitigating circumstances and the final scorecard still reads resoundingly in Perez’s favor, this did not strike me as a fight as close as a lot of people make it out to be.

  10. The “Laps ahead” stat surprises me quite much, although yes, there were many occasions where Stroll was in good or better positions for a while during the races. Also as I percieve this stat only includes laps where both drivers was still in the race (what else would it include), and Racing Point had a lower sample size of these laps than many of the teams, due to Covid, and some crashes, and a bit unexpectedly bad reliability of the car. So I guess the sample size is often bigger at other teammate comparisons.

    So I summed the laps at the “Laps ahead”, driven by curiosity – this hints about car realiability as well to some extent:
    And of course due to stand in appearances and Covid, the sample size is a bit smaller here and there as well.

    Alfa Romeo 874
    McLaren 864
    Alpha Tauri 818
    Renault 806
    Ferrari 800
    Williams 692
    Racing Point 633 – I guess due to the nature of this stat it should be an even number. What can be the reason?
    Haas 610

    Yes, Ferrari not really been the car struggling with too much race ending reliability problems.
    Alpha Tauri is high on the list, they did well at this season, or the car is much better than most of their former makes.
    I guess Red Bull will not top the table, although I’m curious how will they rank in this aspect.

    I would like to see the average gaps at qualifying.
    WolframAlpha is a very nice tool to do this, and much more complex math problems (graphing, function analysis, calculating integrals, interpolation, splines, etc) even without having an account there. Actually using it is very intuitive and funny at many kinds of natural sciences, if one has no programmatic solution for some kind of problem, WolframAlpha almost as good as having one.

    A simple use case for calculating average:
    https://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=avg%2810%2C20%2C30.0%2C40.1%29

    In the case of Stroll vs Perez, due to the huge gaps at Styria, and Turkey, the scale of the graph is different than at many other comparisons, so initially I was supripsed. I consider more than 0.3s gaps at qualification at this level between teammates quite big at the modern era because cars are quite consistent and sophisticated in most cases.
    Probably Perez did better when it became clear that his fate is sealed at the team. I was so happy when he signed that lengthy contract years before, and you can imagine what I thought at this year.

    1. … after it became clear … (and probably he felt it before that, and that made him to perform a bit worse)

      And actually Perez’s contract extension was not that much before, so I guess, I’m amongst those whose perception of time got affected by this lengthy Covid-era.

  11. I think Max will smash Perez. Make him look foolish.

    1. I think it will be HAM v BUT 2.0. VER will be indeed faster but PER won’t be that far, especially on sundays.

      1. Verstappen routinely finishes 30 seconds ahead of Albon. What he does in that RBR is truly astonishing.

    2. I guess we will find out :-D

  12. I think the article did not give sense of how good Perez performed this year versus Lance. It brushed aside the meat of the matter with other secondary concerns.

  13. So some of the stats “flatter” stroll, and yet you only mentioned when Perez was unlucky. But what about the times stroll was unlucky? Why was this not mentioned in the comparison?

    Stroll was easily the most unlucky driver in the midfield:

    Austria: Sensor issue causes DNF while running in the Top 10

    Mugello: Running 4th and gets a Huge puncture causing DNF

    Russia: Engine overheated in Q2, and then gets hit from behind by leclerc causing a DNF on the first lap

    Germany–Covid

    Imola – Loses front wing on first lap, ruining race

    Turkey– Dominates first 17 laps running 1st before a front wing issue

    Bahrain- Kyvat punts him on his roof on opening laps causing a DNF

    Abu Dhabi – Forced to use Old PU and had to use lower engine settings the whole race.

    Look there is no doubt Perez was the better over the season, but the amount of criticism stroll has taken this year has been a bit unfair in my opinion.

  14. Stroll sure gets a lot of bashing. But think about how much money daddy is pouring into the sport so we can have a fairly competitive team, thats quite a big thing imo, it could have went downhill severely after FI ran out of money. We will have to accept that his son takes up one spot, but its a small compromise compared to losing a competitive team.

  15. This season was one for Perez in the end at RP.
    But it is not as clearcut as the final races suggest. Stroll was stronger during the initial races (even though many hate to admit it) and there was some luck involved in his race win (he drove better the week before IMO).

    Stroll had a marvellous pole position in Turkey and was leading comfortably. Who know if it was the car or the driver (probably both) that stopped a conversion of this into a race win.

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