Lance Stroll: Canada’s Return to the Formula 1 Grid

On the eve of the 2017 Formula 1 Season, Alex Gallacher looks at Canada's latest driver on the F1 grid - Lance Stroll.

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Lance Stroll of Canada and Williams talks in the Paddock during previews for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 24, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

For 18-year-old Canadian Lance Stroll, getting the opportunity to drive for Williams in 2017 was a dream come true. Stroll becomes the first Canadian F1 racer since 2006, and will be driving for the same team that fellow Canuck Jacques Villeneuve won the 1997 Championship with. Williams are very confident in their young protege and fully believe in his talent.

Williams Team Boss Claire Williams, when asked about Stroll by the Globe and Mail, said:

He is the full package. He has the talent in the cockpit, he’s intelligent, he gives great feedback to the engineers and he’s a really quick learner.”

Lance Stroll: Canada’s Return to the Formula 1 Grid

Early Successes

Born on October 19th 1998, Stroll has been around racing his entire life. His father fashion-mogul Lawrence Stroll is the owner of Circuit Mont-Tremblant in Quebec, and helped Lance start his career by racing Go-Karts.

In 2008 Stroll was nominated by the Fédération de Sport Automobile du Québec for Rookie of the year. He would also go on to win the Coupe de Montreal Championship and was crowned Canadian Champion the same year. In 2009 he was awarded Driver of the year.

In 2010 Stroll won a remarkable four titles coming from the Florida Winter Tour, Canadian ASN Championships and the Coupe de Quebec. 2011 saw Stroll compete in the Italian Kart Championship where he finished 18th, he also placed ninth in the WSK Euro Series KF3 Class.

In 2012 Stroll won the Las Vegas Trophy, finished fourth in the WSK Master Class, fifth in the World Championship CIK-FIA, eighth in the Euro CIK-FIA and twelfth in the WSK Euro Series.

In 2013, he competed in the KF category in the CIK and WSK Championships once again. He was given the honours of top rookie in those series. Stroll also competed in the Italian Formula 4 Championships winning seven races en route to the series title.

2015 was Stroll’s busiest year, enrolling in the Toyota Racing Series where he went on to win four races and took home the championship. He went on to run Asia’s most prestigious race, the Macau Grand Prix. There, he finished eighth in a car prepared by Prema Powertrain. Stroll graduated to the Italian Formula 3 Championship, he took his first career win at Hockenheim in race 31. Stroll also signed to the Ferrari Young Driver Academy, serving as a development driver for Scuderia Ferrari. Stroll ran an astonishing 50 races in 2015.

In 2016 Stroll ran the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. He raced in a car prepared by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing alongside teammates Alexander Wurz, Brendon Hartley and Andy Priaulx, helping the team finish fifth. In his second year in the Italian Formula 3 Championship, Stroll hit the jets and won 14 races including wins at historic venues as the Nurburgring, the Red Bull Ring, Spa- Francorchamps and Imola. Stroll also went on to win the championship by over 100 points over his rival Maximilian Gunther.

Stroll’s Formula 1 seat has been subject to much controversy. Pundits have been claiming that Stroll is a pay driver. Since his father is a Canadian Billionaire, some pundits claim that his father bought Stroll his seat in Formula 1. Many high profile figures have come to his defence including Claire Williams and Ferrari Talent Scout Eric Jensen. Jensen stated to the Globe and Mail that “A lot of people have put Lance down and his father down, saying it’s just money. But the reality is, they just did things properly from the beginning. Lance followed a proper development program. He won the Formula 3 on merit.”

In an interview with his Father, Lawrence, he stated that “If it would have been anybody else whose name wasn’t Stroll who had done what he did, I think every sports announcer or fan would say, ‘Oh my god this great sensation just dominated and won Formula 3.

While the pay driver claims haven’t seemed to die down, Stroll took the accusation in stride admitting he came from money, but believing he earned his shot by winning every championship he has ever competed in.

Stroll is under a lot of pressure come 2017. While pay driver accusations are hurting, he is expected by his team to help recapture their former glory.

Williams last won a race in 2012 at the Spanish Grand Prix when Pastor Maldonado (another driver with much controversy surrounding him) took the win. Stroll is ushering in a new era in Formula 1, joining Belgian born Dutchman Max Verstappen as the lone teenagers on the grid. The era of youth has started in Formula 1 and will continue into the foreseeable future.

The Canadian will make his Formula 1 debut at the 2017 Australian Grand Prix alongside either Valtteri Bottas or Felipe Massa on March 26th due to much speculation surrounding the position of Bottas at Williams due to a vacant seat at Mercedes. He will return home for the Canadian Grand Prix on June 11th, marking the first Canadian Grand Prix featuring a Canadian racer since 2006. Despite the added pressure Stroll looks to make an impression and have a long career in Formula 1.
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