Lance Stroll will turn 18 at the end of this month and a few days later he will be announced as a Williams F1 race driver, replacing Felipe Massa, according to French Canadian media reports today.
The teenager has already clinched the FIA European F3 championship and has been running a parallel test programme with Williams in a 2014 specification Williams-Mercedes hybrid turbo. The rules allow teams to run two year-old cars as much as they want and Stroll has more test days planned between now and the end of 2016.
“Lance will be racing in F1 next year, you can write that in black and white,” Stroll’s father Lawrence told the Journal de Montreal at the weekend during the F3 round at Hockenheim. The paper added that the proposed announcement date is November 3 in London.
“Lance is realising his dream,” his father added. “His success in F3 is a great effort. But what I am most proud of is the way he has reached such a level.
“You’ve no idea how hard he has worked since he started racing. His rigour and determination are what’s made him an F3 champion. That’s no small achievement. The road has been long and tough at times, but this is a heart payback. Now he’s waiting for his ultimate objective which is F1. I’m sure he will be successful there.
“It’s a huge challenge which he’s been preparing for a long time.”
It is certainly going to be the most physical level of F1 for an 18 year old to enter for some time. Next season is the first time in over 50 years that F1 has set out in the rules to make the cars go faster than their predecessors; normally the rule changes are to slow them down. The cars will have significantly more downforce and wider tyres with more mechanical grip. They will be high drag, so the straight line speeds will be down on current levels, but the cornering forces will be significantly increased.
According to experts in physical preparation, contacted by this site, increased loadings are expected to affect most areas of driver input. Neck strength in high speed corners is the obvious concern, but increased upper body and pedal forces are also likely to need attention.
Physical preparation and training for the drivers always has to compete with many other demands on their time, but all experts are agreed that the 2017 pre-season will be perhaps the most important block of training time since the mid 2000’s (above), when the F1 cars had refuelling and the races were a series of short, flat-out sprints with high g loadings in corners.
This may turn out to be a particular challenge for teenagers like Stroll and even Max Verstappen, although the Dutch 19 year old is more conditioned to current F1 loadings. At this age, late adolescent musculature is still maturing and the physical toll will need to be carefully monitored.
Stroll’s debut season in F1 is set to be a blessing for the beleaguered organisers of the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, which has provisional status on the F1 calendar at present. The plans for upgrading the circuit have been slow to be realised and F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone has expressed frustration.
The arrival of Liberty Media may change the complexion of the situation as they have made it clear that they want more races in the US time zones. Meanwhile Stroll will no doubt use his considerable influence behind the scenes to ensure that there is a sustainable pathway for the Canadian Grand Prix.
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