By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Force India completed Formula One’s 2019 driver line-up on Friday with the confirmation that 20-year-old Canadian Lance Stroll will race for them next season after two years with Williams.
The move had been taken for granted since August, when a consortium led by Stroll’s billionaire father Lawrence took control of the British-based team after they went into administration.
“This is the beginning of an incredibly exciting journey in my Formula One career. I look forward to working alongside a successful team with a great culture,” said Stroll in a statement.
“It’s a new challenge and I am excited to embrace this new opportunity.”
Stroll, who drove a Force India in Abu Dhabi tyre testing this week, had been replaced already at former champions Williams.
The Canadian, who finished on the podium in Azerbaijan in his debut 2017 season, replaces Mercedes-backed Frenchman Esteban Ocon as team mate to Mexican Sergio Perez at Force India.
“It gives us an exciting line-up with the perfect blend of youth, talent, and experience,” said team principal Otmar Szafnauer.
“We see huge potential in Lance and believe we can create an environment in which he can flourish. Our team has enjoyed great success nurturing and developing young and talented drivers, and we are very excited to begin our journey with Lance.”
Force India have punched above their weight in recent seasons, finishing fourth overall in 2016 and 2017 despite limited budgets under the ownership of troubled Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya.
The Silverstone-based team had only 240,000 pounds in its account on July 27 while outstanding gross wages due to be paid at the end of that month totalled 2.2 million pounds.
The reborn Racing Point Force India team, who could change their name for 2019, started from scratch in the constructors’ standings after the August break and finished the season seventh with 52 points from nine races.
Williams were last and scored just seven from 21 grands prix.
Stroll was the youngest driver on the grid but next year that honour will go to McLaren’s 19-year-old British rookie Lando Norris.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)