Szafnauer: Racing Point needs to establish its position as a podium contender

Szafnauer: Racing Point needs to establish its position as a podium contender

Andrew Green, Otmar Szafnauer, Lance Stroll, Sergio Perez
photo: Racing Point

Otmar Szafnauer is Team Principal & CEO of the Racing Point F1 Team. He is talking about the team, its pre-season preparation and aims for 2019.

Otmar, the start of the new season is a few weeks away – share your emotions and excitement for 2019…

The winter months have disappeared incredibly quickly and it’s hugely exciting to be on the verge of seeing the new car take to the track for the first time. Even after more than twenty years in the sport, I still feel the same buzz when the car is fired up in the factory and heads off to the first test. We’ve worked incredibly hard back at base to push as much performance to the car as possible and really maximised the new aero regulations. I’m proud of the team and I think we will start the season with a competitive package, but we won’t really know where we stand until we get to Melbourne.

How different has this winter been compared to previous years?

There is a huge amount going on behind the scenes and I would say it has been the busiest winter I can remember. Not only are we delivering the new car, but we are also planning for the future and trying to improve our facilities and tools following years of underinvestment. We are expanding the current factory to accommodate a growing workforce and simultaneously planning the build of a new facility, which will also be located in Silverstone. These are not easy tasks and they require lots of energy and resources to deliver. But we are well aware that the focus of our key people needs to remain on the performance of the car and that’s very much the case.

The team has a new name – SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team – tell us more about the new identity….

Racing Point was the name that we introduced at last year’s Belgian Grand Prix and we felt it was appropriate to continue with this identity. We are a bunch of racers with a singular focus and this name captures those core values. We have brought in SportPesa as a title partner to sit alongside our principal sponsor BWT, who continue to give us our striking pink colour scheme and strong identity. As such, we are now SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team.

What are the targets for this new era?

The long term aim is to take this team to the very top of the sport. In the short and medium term we need to take the fight to the top three teams and establish our position as a podium contender. This won’t happen overnight and the new owners are realistic about the amount of work needed to get us to that level. We are putting the building blocks in place to deliver on these ambitious targets and it’s important that we take a good step forward in 2019. We want to be fighting for podiums on merit this year and aiming for a top four finish in the championship.

What about the off-track ambitions?

The aspirations off-track are just as ambitious. The new shareholders are investing in all areas of the company to establish Racing Point as a premium brand with strong commercial appeal. We have already signed an exciting new partnership with SportPesa, which sits alongside the BWT relationship as our top level partners. We’ve also welcomed new names such as JCB, Bombardier and Hackett into the Racing Point family – brands which share our vision for building a first-class racing team. There is also the creation of a new factory, which we expect to be ready by 2021, and the introduction of a new motorhome at European events later this year.

How has the workforce reacted to the new era and how is team morale?

When the shareholders acquired the team they made a point of saying that they were investing in the people rather than the buildings. They understood that the people we have working for us represent our strongest asset. Even during the period of transition we only lost a couple of staff. The loyalty of the workforce shows how much people believe in this company and they all want to be part of this exciting new chapter. These are the people that helped Force India deliver fourth place finishes in 2016 and 2017 operating on lean budgets. They share our collective racers’ philosophy. There will be changes and evolution, of course, with greater resources becoming available, but it’s important that we retain this racers’ culture and efficiency as much as possible.

How do you see Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez working together this season?

Our line-up is a blend of youth and experience. We know Sergio very well after five years working together and we regard him as one of the best racers on the grid. He’s an ideal benchmark and teammate as we begin working with Lance and there’s also the opportunity for Lance to learn from Sergio’s experience. We did one test with Lance in Abu Dhabi last year, which went really well, and since then he has been at the factory every week spending time on the simulator. He’s working well with the engineers already, asking all the right questions and is settling in nicely to a new environment. I think our drivers will bring out the best in each other. They are both hugely motivated for the new season and we will work hard to give them a car that matches their talents.