Stroll set for new season, and any wet conditions ahead
Racer will be driving got Aston Martin F1 this year
A lot of things have changed for Lance Stroll since the young Canadian last sat in a Formula One racing car. It was at the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the 22-year-old, Montreal-born, Swiss resident was driving for BWT Racing Point F1 team alongside Sergio Perez of Mexico.
Now it’s 2021 and he’ll be driving this year for Aston Martin F1, as the marque returns to the grid as a works team for the first time since 1960. And Perez, never a champion in 10 years of F1 racing, has been replaced by four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, formerly of Ferrari and Red Bull.
In a wide-ranging interview recently, Stroll talked – among other things – about his new teammate, why some Canadians are so good at driving in the rain and how he views the British media, who gave him such a hard time when he first broke into the big league.
But first things first: it’s one thing to challenge for poles and wins but Job One of any F1 pilot is to be able to beat his teammate. Stroll was asked if he could go faster than Vettel once the cars are on track.
“That’s the goal,” the now-nearly five-year F1 veteran said via Zoom from the dining room in the family home in Geneva.
“He’s (Vettel) incredibly experienced. I think he’s going to be a quick driver. I think it’s also great what he can bring to the team. The experience he has, the knowledge that he has, he can help with the development of the car.”
Stroll said that to beat Vettel in a race would take a change in thinking.
“When it comes to beating him, to being the faster man, I think the only way I can do that is to focus on myself and deliver to the best of my ability. There are 19 other guys in addition to him that I want to beat (in a race) so I know what I have to work on and that’s my mindset for the year.”
Knowing that, in a normal world, they’d be at the factory together in the lead-up to the season, I asked if he’d talked to Vettel about the car and what the team hopes to achieve in 2021.
“No,” he said. “I’ve said hello to him (in the past) but I’ve never worked with him or engaged with him. I know he’s at the factory and he’s done his seat fit and he’s doing some simulator work and things like that, but I haven’t started working with him in person yet.” This will probably happen at the first test early next month in Bahrain, where the first race of the season will take place on March 28.
Although he was initially seen as a lightweight – more about that in a moment – Stroll proved to the media and his fellow racers last year that he had the Right Stuff when, while it was raining, he won the pole for the Turkish Grand Prix. He had either scored points or just missed several times earlier in his Grand Prix career when the track was wet.
He laughed when asked why it seems that Canadians – John Cannon, the two Villeneuves, Tracy, Tagliani, Hinchcliffe – have an almost-uncanny ability to drive faster than anyone else when conditions are less than ideal. Some people think it’s because Canadians learn to drive in the snow, but Stroll said he hadn’t grown up learning to drive during a Canadian winter because his family moved to Switzerland when he was just 11.
“But I spent a lot of time (at kart tracks as a child) in St. Hilaire outside Montreal and at Mont Tremblant as well and one time there was this torrential downpour and my coach, Hugo Mousseau, just kept me out there lapping and lapping and lapping. And I was like, ‘Can I get out now, I’m soaking wet,’ and he’d say, ‘Nope, you have to stay out there for the 10 or 15 laps remaining.’ It was pretty brutal, but I think that kind of developed a feeling in the wet. A confidence in the wet. I think that challenge, growing up and driving in the wet, has something to do with it.”
Lance Stroll was born into a wealthy family. He was very successful racing in the minor leagues and was only 18 when his father sponsored his seat at Williams F1 to the tune of $80 million. As you can imagine, the British media, in particular, questioned his credentials, suggesting the only reason he was driving in Formula One was because of his father’s ability to buy his ride.
But that’s changed, as Stroll has scored podiums and that elusive first pole position. Has Stroll, however, forgotten what was written and said about him?
“I think,” he said, “that it’s something you have to laugh about and take with a grain of salt. I have to keep it as background noise and if I can laugh about it, it’s the only thing I can do. It’s just normal where I come from. There can be a lot of hate, anger toward me. Envy might be a better choice of words, I don’t know.
“As long as the people who are close to me, my family, my friends, my entourage of trainers, engineers, mechanics, as long as those people support me and are there with me on the journey, that’s what counts for me.”
Be sure to check back with us in the weeks ahead to find out how Lance Stroll and Aston Martin F1 have been doing throughout this year’s Formula One season
Norris McDonald / Special to Wheels
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