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Behind the Scenes F1: Spotlight on Lance Stroll as weekend turns from tension to relief
Lance Stroll
Posted By: James Allen  |  12 Jun 2017   |  9:22 am GMT  |  60 comments

This season has seen two of the three rookies in the F1 field struggling compared to their team mates with Lance Stroll and Stoffel Vandoorne matching up badly against Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso respectively.

Of the rookies only Esteban Ocon is standing out, keeping pace with Sergio Perez at Force India, as he showed graphically in Canada. Ocon did have eight races last season as a warm up, however and Vandoorne one.

The conclusion is that these 2017 F1 cars are far more difficult to drive, the Pirelli tyres are ‘peaky’ meaning that experience is critical in finding how to bring them in and maintain them in the optimum window and generally it is tough for a rookie to get the maximum from the car.

The Canadian Grand Prix offered a shot at redemption for Lance Stroll, the 18 year old from Montreal who was seeking his first points of the season, despite driving the fourth best car in the field, the Williams-Mercedes.

Stroll duly scored his first points of the season in his home town race, in ninth place, after a disappointing qualifying session. He made some fine overtaking moves and this result will help to calm things down – internally and externally – ahead of a trio of upcoming races where the Williams should expect to be very fast and where Stroll knows two of the tracks intimately.

We thought it would be interesting to look at his Montreal weekend in detail and see how things unfolded, looking for some conclusions about Stroll and where he fits in to F1.

Pre-Grand Prix weekend
The week building up to the race in Montreal was busy, Stroll did seven events including a private visit to a children’s hospital to help with fundraising, two sponsor events with Rexona, a Williams partner and a karting filming day with SKY TV’s Johnny Herbert.

The final outing was an event in Montreal’s downtown that was disrupted by a naked woman with a flare canister, protesting about F1 encouraging prostitution when it comes to town.

After that the F1 paddock must have seemed a relatively calm place on Thursday..

Thursday – Media Day

Stroll appears in the FIA Drivers Press conference and acquits himself pretty well. He sits in the centre seat of the three, conveying some importance to the speaker and he talks about how he used to come to the race as a small boy a decade ago when Alonso, Schumacher and then Hamilton were leading the way. He would watch from the grandstands and reflect on one day having a chance to race these cars.

He said expectations were high that he could score his first points in F1. This has been a strong track for Williams recently – back to back podiums the last two seasons and there has been a Williams on the front two rows of the grid in three of the last four years.

Lance Stroll

Drawn onto the inevitable question about the criticism he has faced for being a billionaire’s son, who’s not performing, he talks about how there will always be ‘haters’ but that he can only influence the things under his control and he will try his best again this weekend.

He comes across as a nice lad, clearly very young compared to the hardened pros around him, but an open and approachable person, willing to talk and certainly not worn down by the criticism.

Lance Stroll
Friday- Free Practice

It was clear from the start that the Williams was a competitive car this weekend, with a small margin on performance compared to Force India. A top ten starting grid slot was definitely there for the taking for Stroll.

Although he is a local boy, Stroll has never raced at the Gilles Villeneuve circuit before and so Friday practice was all about getting familiar with the layout and dialling the car into the tyres.

Stroll covered 36 laps in FP1, with a best of 1m 16.3 coming half way through a long run of 15 laps. In FP2 he did not follow the same pattern as the others, with a qualifying simulation half way through; instead he focussed on more long runs and familiarisation. He has had a few accidents this season already, pushing the car too much and so the brief from the team was clearly to keep it clean on Friday and not suffer any kind of incident that would set back confidence on the first day.

This was particularly important as the track was especially dirty and therefore slippery on Friday this year, with many cars spinning.

The strategy was to give him two new sets of tyres for the FP3 session on Saturday morning (rather than the normal one) to give him two chances to get his eye in just before Qualifying. This has been done before and was considered the best way to prepare him for an important qualifying session.

Montreal is unique in that it combines the risk of the walls and barriers of Monaco, but at much higher speeds. So bravery and risk taking are high on the list of requirements, as is real precision in the way that you take the kerbs in the chicanes like Turn 4/5.

It was notable how the crowd in the large grandstand amphitheatre of Turns 2 and 3 responded to him as he drove out of the pits; a warm applause similar to that for Hamilton and Vettel, the two main crowd favourites.

Saturday-Qualifying Day

The headline in the local Journal de Montreal (above) says it all. Stroll qualified 17th, eight tenths off his team mate Massa in Q1 and blamed the team for a strategic error in leaving him out on the tyres, rather than pitting him for a new set.

Stroll was sent out on a set of ultrasoft tyres and circulated for 14 laps without pitting, doing a push lap followed by a recharge lap. Other peers, like Ocon, did just six laps, while Vandoorne pitted for new tyres.

Massa did a similar plan to Stroll, but only for 10 laps. He subsequently went on to Q3 and set the seventh fastest time, best of the rest behind the top three teams, Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. There was a half second gap back to Hulkenberg in P10 and Stroll should really have been in that gap with the car he has.

“The team decided that I should stay out on the same tyres. They were finished and didn’t allow me to improve. It’s so tight in the midfield, it’s easy to slip down a few rows,” he said.

“Ideally we should have changed them..when the times of others were constantly improving. The situation wasn’t helped by Pascal Wehrlein going off and triggering yellow flags at the end of the session, which meant that none of the drivers under pressure could respond with a final effort.”

Massa followed a similar plan and managed to get the lap time, but he’s got 15 years experience. Was it a mistake on Williams’ part, should they have thrown a new set of tyres at the situation? It was taking drivers several laps to get the tyres to come in

Lance Stroll
Sunday – Race day

Starting 17th on the grid, Stroll spoke before the race of needing an alternate strategy, something to allow him to use the pace of the Williams. He took advantage of the chaos on the opening lap to move up to 13th place. He was up to 10th by Lap 14, battling with Hulkenberg, who had pitted for new tyres under the Virtual Safety Car.

He pitted on Lap 26 and rejoined in some traffic behind Palmer in 17th place. He passed him 12 laps later, then Grosjean on Lap 41 Vandoorne on Lap 44 and Alonso two laps later. This put him tenth, knowing that Kvyat ahead had to pit and also serve a time penalty, so the ninth place was in the bag.

On the slow down lap he said, “At last… some points. It’s taken a while. Thanks, guys!”

Lawrence Stroll
The mantra F1 is not a finishing school has been used a lot this season.

Things were certainly getting tense at Williams, with Stroll’s imposing father Lawrence clearly unhappy after another difficult qualifying session, but Sunday poured some balm on the situation.

Clearly this is one of the most difficult seasons for a rookie to come into F1, much harder than when Max Verstappen came in as a 17 year old, due to the complexity of the cars and the peakiness of the tyres.

Stroll is not Verstappen, a once in a generation talent, but he is a champion of F4 and F3, like Ocon and Leclerc, who is now developing his skills in F2 with the Prema Power team that Stroll raced for in F3 and that his father co-owns.

You only have one career and Stroll’s best interests would arguably have been served by doing this 2017 season in F2 with Prema, winning some races and doing the available F1 test days with a 2017 car as a preparation for F1. Even Lewis Hamilton did a season in GP2 prior to entering F1.

The FIA has worked to build the single seater pathway of F4, F3, F2 and F1 which is now in place and next season F3 will replace GP3 on the F1 support programme.

Perhaps this Stroll experience should act as a catalyst for the Federation to insist that young drivers must follow every step of that ladder, collecting credits on their licence, before entering F1. It would put more emphasis on development, which is important in all elite sports.

What Stroll has attempted to do is go straight from a soccer academy into the Champions League final.

Luca Baldisseri

He can’t undo that decision now. The next few races will feature tracks where he has raced before, like Austria, Silverstone and Hungary and Williams should be competitive at the first two of those.

He has Luca Baldisseri (above), Michael Schumacher’s former Ferrari race engineer, as his engineering mentor, who is employed by the family but who sits in on Williams engineering meetings, which is quite unusual.

He has the means to take a long view and Williams will have to accept that they are likely to finish sixth or seventh at best in the championship with only one car scoring regular points.

That’s hard to take for the technical team that has build the fourth fastest car, but sees Force India now on 71 points to their 22, Ocon on 27 points with six top ten finishes in seven starts to Stroll’s two points.

What do you think? Leave your comments in the section below or on JA on F1’s Facebook Page.

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“Haters”? well that about sums it all up. Anyone who questions Strolls ability as an F1 racer is basically a “hater” according to the driver.

I for one do not hate Stroll, he’s simply not F1 material. He has consistently shown this whether the journalists continue to find excuses and whether Clare continues to think we racers are all basically dumb.

This kind of behavior is damaging to F1. In a perfect world Clare should step up and admit she made the wrong choice , hand back his cash and get on with managing.


Lets not forget that Williams is losing a lot of face over their poorer than expected performance. That is more difficult to place in monetary terms. Stroll’s cash might cover their losses in prize money, but what about a battered reputation?


I kind of feel bad for him and the team but kind of don’t – the team and his dad get what they deserve for thinking a bag of cash = performance. Plus, I’m really enjoying seeing Force India eat Williams’ lunch. Huge fan of Ocon and Perez!


Two thoughts: Well done Stroll ! Keep at it ! !

Second: Perez continues to disappoint and in spite of some good drives it seems that McLaren’s reasoning is clearer these days. Perhaps a year or three in NASCAR as a ‘finishing school’ to learn what can happen when blocking another driver, especially a team mate could add perspective ? Or, maybe Kimi could do some coaching in that regard, given his experience.

Also – a new email address, hope a posting is the way to get it registered. Thanks for the insight and the “finishing school” perspective. Makes complete sense and experience makes the difference, especially with the “sink or swim” approach around F-1 and a lot of the “fans” perspectives.


At the bottom of the WDC points table, we have:
2 Lance Stroll
0 Jolyon Palmer
0 Marcus Ericsson
0 Fernando Alonso
0 Antonio Giovinazzi

Giovinazzi will still be given some time to show his worth, Alonso will get a seat if he really wants to continue in F1. But for the rest, not sure we will see any of them on the track next year. And I don’t see that as any major loss for the sport, more actually as a win!


Nice guy, obviously fast but no f1 material.


Congrats in to his 2 and ever only points in F1 career. How much it was $50M each?

sarcasm apart, when Massa gets hit by Sainz, I told my son “there you go, no points for Williams in this race? … Kid was lucky, still drives terrible (just look the onboard camera how much he still struggle) , of course with Mas and Ver out he just need to end the race to get in to the points, so congrats to him, I’m still not convinced he fits the place in F1.

Maybe Alonso should go to Williams next year….


Seems to be a lot of Stroll hate.

I would say in most of his interviews he seems a little immature, very young. However, his latest interview he sounded a lot better. And driving has gotten better. He is finding his feet a little bit.

He is still getting absolutely destroyed by Massa, who was consistently beaten by Bottas. So, plenty of room for improvement, but these tires seem tricky, even veterans and former WDC have struggled with them. So, I’m going to say the points help his confidence, he continues to improve, and by the end of the year is consistently within .1s of Massa. Prob never a WDC, but he might get a few podiums eventually.


I would be quite interested into the thinking around Vandoorne. I really wonder if he is suffering more from the in team politics that is always involved where ever Alonso is. Is it a case of, we have to do everything to try and make Fernando happy, and if we have any spare resources we can try and put togethor a car for the that Kid we have driving for us too.

I think Vandoorne might be getting an extremely rough deal in the current political situation happening inside of Maclaren. To be honest, I think we have no way to what he is driving or to judge his talent yet.


This will prove a breakthrough race for him, not to great heights, but confidence to know he is not totally out of place. Sure, would not be there without his dad, but many over recent years have been similarly gifted a spot on the grid. I like him as a person.


If F1 is not a finishing school then perhaps the teams should stop employing drivers going through puberty


Considering that is dad is reputed to have paid $80million to land him this seat he is probably covering about 50% of the revenue for the Williams Grand Prix team. It’s business. IMO he could of probably got the drive for $60million but I assume his dad wanted to ensure that Williams would be loyal to him for more than one season.


If it’s that much per year that should cover any lost points and damage.


The reality is that he was overtaking cars that should have been behind him. He should have been in the Ricciardo Force India battle. It’s a real shame for F1 to see such a competitive car 6-7 places out of position.

Tornillo Amarillo

Stroll got P9, in papers he should fight as a rookie between P7 and P10… What are you talking about reality when Kimi was P7 and Hulk almost 10 years older only P8…
People don’t ask Hulk a maiden podium anymore, it seems impossible with Merc, Ferrari and RB there in front, so do you want an steady P8 for kid Stroll?
People don’t ask to Kmag anything, and they forgot that Grosjean exists, but they remember Stroll family has billions, so… c’mon!


Question James what is going on with Palmer? His performances are pretty lackluster particularly in qualifying nearly a second off the Hulk in part 2 of Qualifying. Doesn’t have the excuse of its his first season anymore and hasn’t really shown any improvement.

Tornillo Amarillo

I think Palmer is: almost 10 years older than Stroll, in his second season in F1, in a competitive midfield car according with teammate’s results, but still with 0 points, with a millionaire daddy… 🙂
It sounds like a pay-driver with no talent, but who knows, it’s no worthy to throw people under the bus, eh? Let do their business, let it be.

Tornillo Amarillo

Lance is doing well with records :
Lowe said “Stroll’s result also meant he became the second-youngest driver in history to secure a points finish in Formula 1.”
That’s not easy, eh?

Jacques Villeneuve I think he was on Saturday very critic of Lance and now he should apologize and shut up instead of trying to desperate attract attention to medias.


The guy has one finish in the points, with four retirements ahead of him and you hail him as the second coming? He has seriously under performed in that car to the point where the cost of spare parts and the opportunity cost of a decent constructors finish must be close to exceeding the seat cost (unless the rumors of Stroll Sr buying part of the team are true).


I can’t believe that journalists continue to side step this driver. Your correct and it seems that its not important to note that.

The other thing journalists ignore is the in-car camera footage and Strolls over-driving characteristic. This shows me that he’s not comfortable with the car and that his abilities are just not there. This is not something you pick up and learn. Massa stopped short of saying that F1 is not for Stroll.


I think he’s good enough to be an F1 driver, he just lacks experience

He should be in F2 for a year then F1. It’s a really tough year to be a rookie (look at Vandoorne)

Makes you realise how good Ocon is


the bottom line is that F1 should be about the best drivers in the world. If he had talent – raw talent, like that of Max and Lewis then I think the world can live with the “inexperience” of being in F1 at an early age.

Stroll simply lacks skill and talent. No amount of experience in today’s F1 car is going to get him to perform.

The cars today are not the video dromes of the past decade. They are a racers car, not a drivers car.

Give it up James, your starting to sound too much like Clare.


Villeneuve is a critic of everything. Very rarely has anything positive to say


Max a once in a generation talent? If by generation, you mean generation of cars, and with perfectly timed entry into F1 at slowest level since I can remember, then yes.

I think timing and luck had a lot more to do with Max successful ramp up than anything else. Red Bull saw the opportunity to have a kid marketing their products to kids so gave him the seats for mutual benefit. F1 was pretty much GP2 speed so really Max entered F1 that was GP2, and as it sped up, he adjusted accordingly. In fact, it was only once it was apparent that the cars were slow, VER Sr. saw the path and managed it perfectly with seat time in 2014 for Max and full contract for 2015 so he could get up to speed gradually. Some refer to this as a Hayabusa effect. You get used to speed as you have access to it. You get comfortable with it, and then are ready for more. Hence turbos on Hayabusas or drivers being used to Top Fuel funny car drivers ripping up 1/4 miles in under 4 seconds. Now here we are, faster by a bunch of seconds vs. 2014 and 2015, and the result is bar for entry is higher and margin of error lower.

I hope F1 never again has such low speed ever again. It is wrong for the product and indeed as you noted James, made F1 easy. Max made the most of those easy F1 ‘levels’ to get up to speed. Now he’s some second coming? No way. Just well timed and opportunistic. Good on him for that. When life gives you lemons, make the best lemonade!

Ricciardo Aficionado

Woahh! You don’t rate Max??


I think he has skills, absolutely. But he wasn’t born with them. He developed them, and had what is likely the easiest entry into F1…ever thanks to timing and slow cars lowering the bar of learning curve.


No, I think James means once in a generation like once in 10 years or something.


Probably what he meant is he’s one of a kind when compared to drivers around his own age. That would be the logical definition of ‘generation’.


The only way the Stroll decision could be mitigated from a Williams point of view is if the money he pays is more than the losses from finishing lower in the constructors and also lost sponsorship from finishing lower. I would guess it us but it’s also costing then brand and reputational damage which is impossible to quantify.

I have said many times Stroll needed more experience. If results don’t drastically improve I see him being dropped at the end of the year regardless of how much cash he brings.


I read it’s about 25 million dollars. If that’s the case, he will find a drive in F1 for as long as he wants.


yeah, but what type of sit? Sauber? … well FI can also use some money next year, I mean, Stroll Sr. can even buy Marussia if he want and give his son the 2 cars so he can play with…

but Williams its ridiculous, there are so many other drivers who can be doing a better job in that car than Stroll.

Fulveo Ballabeo

Stroll is not good. What best serves his career is irrelevant. He’ll be there as long as his father’s cheques clear.

The Baldisseri arrangement funded by dad is unusual. In winning F4 and F3, how many similarly unusual arrangements were in place?

Williams took the guaranteed money from Stroll Sr. over the unpredictability of scoring points/winning prize money.


Nice analysis James of Stroll’s weekend. A nice enough guy he is, however you sum it up by acknowledging that LS is no Verstappen! I would say he will probably never be more than a Bruno Senna, or Nelsihno Piquet. I do believe Williams’ rather good car is wasted this year by a less than stellar line-up.

Tornillo Amarillo

Lance is a rookie and it looks that nobody was expecting he scores in Canada, except himself. And nobody was expecting he was getting in 2017 better results than Force India I guess…

Don’t miss Lance outscore Massa for the first time in Canada, because of Massa’s accident, and because of Lance’s solid race.
Massa should score more points in next races.

About F2, etc., you will also find hopefully different pathways in life because you have to do your own path, and that’s what Lance do. Others just repeat things.


“Stroll appears in the FIA Drivers Press conference and acquits himself pretty well.”

This I could not disagree with more. He comes across very young in all press interactions, making vague points and stumbling over his words. Rarely saying anything that isn’t immediately obvious from watching the action itself.


He’s an 18 year old kid, he sounds his age.


A good, fair analysis James, I personally thought that he showed enough skill a d speed fighting yesterday to stake a solid claim to be a f1 driver. He was feisty against Hulk, Gross, Alonso and others,yes, with pretty decent car for the job, but he did well.


A couple of DRS overtakes in the fastest top speed car on the grid is not feisty, it’s Playstation.

Ricciardo Aficionado

He still had to get around the corners to reach the straight.


I personally think that it’s obvious that he has been pushed into F1 to early. He’s a racing driver, yes. But he’s not a natural talent. It’s quite clear where his father wanted him to be, and he got him there. I don’t think it’s lances fault. He seems like a nice lad. But a future WDC he isn’t, imo.

Ricciardo Aficionado

It will be interesting to see his development if he stays in for a few years.
I agree that it probably won’t extend to a WDC. At least he will be in an upwards trajectory in a Williams, whereas someone like Ocon would probably stagnate, limited by the car’s performance.


With all respect, I disagree. Ocon, if he carries on like he is now, will end up in a big team. Real talent there. Lance has come into a fairly big team, and I personally can’t see any team above Williams taking him on. And I can’t see Williams being a front runner for the near future. Lance seems like a nice bloke, but in my opinion, he’s an average driver and doesn’t deserve to be where he is, yet. He’s managed to win this and that. So have other drivers with more talent than lance who never got a good shot at an F1 seat. His fathers money has got lance that seat, and I don’t begrudge lance that. But he’s out of his depth. He may get better and start fighting regularly in the midfield. I think that’s the least one can expect when he has a personal this and a personal that to help him. But as a father myself, I know we do everything we can to give our kids the best in life. But he’s in the lions den, and therefore open to scrutiny.

Ricciardo Aficionado

I didn’t explain myself properly.
I meant that Ocons career would be curtailed by Williams. ie his championship potential is better than the car will allow. Lance on the other hand probably wouldn’t outgrow that car. As you say, he won’t get picked up by a bigger team.
P.S. All a father needs to give their child to succeed is confidence.


And @Riccardo’s comment applies directly to Perez. He had his chance with a “top” team and we are seeing more and more why he failed to take advantage with that opportunity.


All a father needs to give their child to succeed is confidence

Wise words👏 Thanks👍🏻


Williams have painted themselves in a corner. Stroll has not been performing and clearly is out of his depth. I feel he only got points due to other cars retiring and making a few moves on the Mclarens. But they can’t fire him because of Daddy’s money. No excuses for the next GPs if he knows he must at least get closer to Massa in qualifying and the race.


The idea that this result should take any pressure off Stroll is to me laughable. Without the retirements of Verstappen and Massa, he’d have yet again been out of the points. His overtakes were simply driving past slower cars in a straight line with the DRS, at the kind of track where Williams tend to do fairly well at. Cars that he should probably have been in front of to begin with, but of course he had yet another utterly hopeless qualifying. Knocked out again in Q1 with a time nearly 8 tenths behind Massa’s, and over 1.2sec behind the time Massa went on to set in Q3.

His big achievement this race is essentially that he managed to finish the race without incident. Is that how low we’re setting the bar, that now that he’s managed to do that he’s somehow proven himself worthy? He may have finished with a couple of points, but in terms of the driving itself, it was hardly any kind of breakthrough performance.

And I think the licence system indeed is a tad woeful. With a 2nd in F4, and a 3rd and a 4th in two years of F3, you have enough points for a super licence. Without winning a single championship in these cars, which have nowhere near the performance or physical demand of an F1 car, you’re eligible to compete at what is supposed to be the absolute top level of motorsport. That seems absurd to me.


Well said.

And what is more annoying is how the commentators expect us to play along with the fake positivity.


No it shouldn’t relieve media pressure but maybe it will relieve some of pressure Stroll put on himself-which should help him be less tentative and drive better. This is the turning point his season needed. I think.

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