The 2023 Bahrain GP knocked out a good chunk of the ‘pay driver’ naysayers for Lance Stroll, although it wasn’t the first instance where he proved them wrong.
Stroll followed a similar path to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in the sense that his immense performances in the junior categories saw him enter the world of Formula 1 quickly as a teenager, but that’s the way it went. been done which has left lingering after-effects so far for the Canadian runner.
The financial influence of his billionaire father Lawrence played a huge role in Lance landing his first Formula 1 gig with Williams in 2017, and since then a driver who still doesn’t have that statement by beating a teammate from fame, Stroll has heard many people say he’s only in Formula 1 because of his father’s bank account.
However, Stroll changed opinions quite widely in the world of Formula 1 at the start of F1 2023, not only by his performances, but by the fact that he was even on the grid for the Bahrain season opener. in the first place.
Stroll suffered fractures to both wrists among other injuries in a pre-season cycling accident, and after missing all three days of F1 testing his medics expected his medics to miss the F1 2023 opening races.
But, Stroll’s stubborn determination and remarkable recovery meant he was there from the first training session in Bahrain to kick off his season as planned.
And rather than just be there to do the numbers, Stroll fought the pain to register a P6 finish at the end of the race, dividing the Mercedes drivers as his Aston Martin team celebrated the bold performance and a podium delivered by the fully-fit, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso.
But, we’d say that wasn’t the first instance where Stroll proved he’s more than just a ‘pay driver’.
We can go all the way back to Baku 2017, Stroll’s rookie season, where an admittedly tricky start to life in Formula 1 was followed by his first podium in his eighth race, crossing the P3 line in his Williams.
After outqualifying his much more experienced teammate Felipe Massa, Stroll took advantage of the chaos ahead, including technical gremlins for his teammate, to improve podium places and came so close to finishing P2, but was narrowly beaten. . position by Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas in a drag race to the finish line.
Still, that weekend was a clear demonstration of that talent that Stroll possessed, and he showed it even more at Monza later that year, where we had our first example of what is fairly well known from nowadays – Stroll likes to race on a wet track!
“Just having fun” was key, said Stroll as he qualified a potent P4, but with both Red Bulls carrying grid penalties it meant Stroll shared the front row with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
Stroll would finish the race at a very respectable P7, having fended off Massa’s attack in the closing stages.
Further P3 podiums arrived for Stroll at Monza and Bahrain 2020, a generally impressive year for the Canadian driving a competitive Racing Point RP20, Stroll having joined that team in 2019 when his father bought the Force India team in bankruptcy and oversaw the name change.
But it was Stroll’s display at the Turkish Grand Prix that year that really stood out.
Again he was powerful in wet conditions, claiming the first and so far only pole position of his career, three tenths ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Stroll would lead the race in the early stages, ahead of Racing Point team-mate Sergio Perez, but Racing Point’s decision to later pit Stroll for new splits backfired hugely, with worn-out splits ultimately proving essential to perform on the drying surface which had turned out to be very slippery all weekend.
Yet while the result was definitely not what Stroll wanted, being P9, he was still a very timely reminder that in the right car he was by no means out of his depth up front.
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And with the latest incarnation of this team, Aston Martin, now looking set to be the top team it aspires to, this should be Stroll’s best opportunity to silence any doubters for good.
And even before that brilliant opening act in Bahrain, there was just enough time in 2022 for Stroll to lead Aston Martin’s ultimately unsuccessful charge for P6 in the standings in Abu Dhabi.
He did everything he could as he crossed the P8 line, but Sebastian Vettel didn’t quite get the job done on Daniel Ricciardo, a pass that would have sealed P6 for the Silverstone team.
Over to You: Which Lance Stroll performances have impressed you the most over the past seven years?