Mock now, but Lance Stroll & Racing Point will be the midfield story of F1 2019

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On the day Mercedes and Red Bull took their 2019 machines for a spin around Silverstone, the launch of Racing Point's first Formula 1 car went under the radar.

Of the three unveilings, it was the team actually based next to the British circuit that had the most lavish ceremony, removing the black covers on stage at the start of the Toronto International Show.

There was the obvious disappointment when it turned to be last year's Force India, albeit with a rather nice pink and blue livery thanks to the arrival of new title sponsor SportBesa alongside long-time partner BWT.

However, the feeling that prevailed throughout the whole event was the sense of anticipation that big things are to come for Racing Point.

Having overcome the financial woes under former owner Vijay Mallya, the team now has the funds to match their desire and can once again focus on becoming the giant-killers of the F1 grid.

The crew back at the factory is renowned for their efficiency and ability to optimise what they have, in fact, I'd even argue the team as Force India was second only behind Red Bull in terms of performance pound-for-pound.

That's how they took on Williams in 2016 and won and did so again versus Renault in 2017, finishing fourth in the Constructors' Championship on both occasions.

Now, returning to that position is their main goal for this season but many strong teams stand in their way, including Haas, Sauber, McLaren and Renault.

However, Racing Point should be more than ready to take on the challenge, and few would bet against them succeeding in their endeavour.

Something that will determine just how well the team will fare is the performance of their new driver Lance Stroll.

For some, the fact his father Lawrence was the man to save Force India was the only negative, as it played to the narrative of the 20-year-old being the spoilt son of a billionaire

It also didn't help that his arrival would come at the expense of Esteban Ocon, a highly rated youngster who, this time next year, could be preparing for his first year with Mercedes.

Looking beyond all that though, what is clear is that the opportunity given to Stroll at Racing Point is incredible, particularly after the misery he endured at Williams last year.

Because of the team's lack of competitiveness, Lance remains somewhat of an unknown quantity despite entering his third F1 season.

It is thought his main weakness remains qualifying, but we also know he has a strong ability in the wet and a knack for surviving tricky races.

So the questions to be asked ahead of this year will be: 'How much has he improved in the past 12 months?' and 'How will he compare against teammate Sergio Perez?'.

The answer to both of them, I suspect, will surprise many and certainly, those continue that to doubt his ability.

Will Stroll instantly become Max Verstappen? Of course, not. But with a car capable of much better performance than last year's Williams it will give him the confidence to push harder and faster.

On race pace too, the Canadian should be a match for Perez, and if he can start producing the goods in qualifying then Racing Point may have another troublesome duo to deal with.

Let's not forget also this is a driver who arrived in F1 after dominating the European F3 championship in 2016, beating two F1 rookies, George Russell and Lando Norris, in the process.

So if Stroll does start to show that kind of potential, then 2019 will be not only his breakthrough year but possibly the start of a steady rise towards the front with a team capable of taking him there in the long-term.

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