Tyre woes cost Stroll shot at first F1 victory

Lance Stroll leads Sergio Perez

Graining on his intermediate tyres during the Formula 1 Turkish Grand Prix caused Lance Stroll to fall from a comfortable lead to eighth at the flag.

The Canadian had sensationally claimed his first career pole position on Saturday before opening a sizeable lead in the early stages of Sunday’s race in Istanbul Park.

However, as conditions began to dry, Racing Point’s young charge began to struggle for pace.

Stopped for a second set of intermediate rubber, his race never recovered as he struggled for grip and eventually fell down the order.

“It’s really hard to understand what happened today and we need to go away and figure it out,” Stroll said.

“I made a good start from pole position and I was able to build up a lead of over 10 seconds in the first stint, which gave us a real platform for the second stint to get a great result.

“Throughout the race, I was struggling with graining on the intermediate tyre.

“The team made the right call to pit when we did because the graining was extremely difficult and it didn’t look like slick conditions would ever arrive.

“But we then had significant graining on my second set of intermediates, and I couldn’t push to make up places.

“In hindsight, maybe staying out would have allowed the tyre to clean up, but it’s easy to say that now.

“Getting pole yesterday was a great achievement, but the points are scored on Sunday.

“It was fun to lead so many laps, but we didn’t lead enough!”

Having pitted Stroll from the lead, Racing Point elected on a different strategy for Sergio Perez.

Running second to his team-mate for the opening half of the race, Perez found himself second to a resurgent Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages.

Neither of the front two opted for a second stop, wearing their intermediate tyres down to effectively slicks.

It was a high risk strategy as Perez struggled for pace on the worn tyres in the final laps, while rain continued to threaten until the chequered flag.

As it was, a mistake at Turn 9 on the final lap saw him cede second place to Charles Leclerc, only to reclaim the place when the Ferrari driver went long at the end of the back straight.

Perez then scrambled his way to the line, narrowly heading Sebastian Vettel in the drag out of the final corner.

“We’ve come close to a podium several times this year, so it’s great to enjoy the moment now with the team,” Perez said.

“It was an exciting race and a difficult one all the way to the end.

“I was trying to look after the tyres, push at the right time to keep the temperatures in the right window, and learn the track all at the same time.

“It’s a great result and we called it exactly right.

“When I crossed the line, I told the team that I didn’t think the tyres could last another lap! They were vibrating like hell at the end.

“It was about keeping it on the track and making the right calls, which we did.

“The key was managing the intermediates at the beginning and end of the second stint, it made a huge difference.

“Lewis was on another level today and, once he got by me, he controlled the race.

“So, second was the best we could achieve and we did a great job to keep the Red Bulls and Ferraris behind.”

Team boss Otmar Szafnauer added: “A podium is a great result for the team after an excellent drive by Checo.

“We can be very proud of the fact we led a significant amount of the race in very difficult conditions with both cars.

“As we’ve come to expect with Checo, he managed the wet tyre very well early on and the team timed his switch to intermediates perfectly.

“To manage the intermediate on a changing track surface for 48 laps was a huge challenge, but he managed it to secure P2.

“It’s a shame Lance didn’t get the result he deserved,” Szafnauer added.

“He handled the pressure of starting on pole position very well.

“He was flawless today and carved out a lead of over 10 seconds, when his tyres worked as expected.

“It was tough to judge the conditions, but we made the right call to switch Lance to intermediates, rather than wait for slick conditions that ultimately never arrived.

“We need to look into why Lance struggled so much with graining on the new intermediates because that prevented him from joining Checo on the podium.

“Regardless, today’s result is a memorable one that has lifted the team back into P3 in the constructors’ championship, which is a real boost going into the final few races of the season.”

Racing Point now holds a five point advantage over McLaren as they battle over third in the constructors’ competition, while Renault has slipped to fifth after picking up just a single point courtesy of Daniel Ricciardo.

Three races now remain in the 2020 F1 season, starting with the Bahrain Grand Prix on November 27-29.

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