F1 fans wrong about Lance Stroll: ‘He’s a lot better than people think’

Oliver Harden
Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll looks thrilled as he makes his way through the paddock at the Monaco Grand Prix. Monte Carlo, 2023.

Aston Martin driver Lance Stroll looks thrilled as he makes his way through the paddock at the Monaco Grand Prix. Monte Carlo, 2023.

Formula 1 icon Juan Pablo Montoya has defended Lance Stroll in the face of criticism from fans, insisting he’s “a lot better than people think.”

The impressive performances of Aston Martin team-mate Fernando Alonso, who has stood on the podium at all but one of the six races of 2023 so far, have shone a light on the struggles on Stroll.

The Canadian’s reputation was at an all-time high after he recovered from a pre-season bike accident to finish sixth in the season opener in Bahrain, but he has struggled for form in recent weeks and qualified 18th for the Miami Grand Prix.

Stroll could only manage P14 on the grid in Monaco as Alonso challenged Max Verstappen’s Red Bull for pole position, with the 24-year-old becoming the first driver to retire from the race with accident damage.

Appearing on the Sky Sports F1 podcast, Montoya – who won seven grands prix for Williams and McLaren in an F1 career made up of 94 starts between 2001 and 2006 – believes it is clear that Alonso feels no threat from the opposite side of the garage at Aston Martin, but is hopeful that Stroll can learn from the two-time World Champion.

He said: “I think Fernando is right now in a really good situation because he doesn’t feel threatened by Lance. He understands that this is his last chance to win again.

“They’ve built a really good car and the more he can do to bring everybody together, the better they’re going to be.

“I think [at this] point of his career, he’s OK [with] sharing. At the end of the day, you can share everything as long as you believe you can still be the guy and you’ve still got to bring your A-game – and he’s doing that, he’s bringing the A-game.

“You see Lance, you look through qualifying there was times where Lance was really, really strong. It’s just when it’s the really little bit of go time – the ultimate thing – he’s still missing a little bit.

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“But Lance has come a long way and I think Fernando is going to make him a much better driver.”

Montoya defended Stroll for his mistake at the hairpin on the opening lap in Monaco, where he hit the wall while launching an ambitious move on Alex Albon’s Williams, and believes he could benefit from some tough love at Aston Martin.

“Honestly, if they’re not they need to,” said about a potential change in the team’s treatment of Stroll. “Lance has an opportunity, Lance is a lot better than people think he is and I think he’s very underrated.

“He’s a really nice guy and he’s very quiet but I think he needs somebody on his corner to kick [inaudible] and really go, ‘Really, buddy? You lost two tenths here because [of] what?’

“He needs to come out of his comfort zone and, in a way, that’s going to be a couple of shunts and what he did in Monaco.

“I understand, where you’re starting with the fast car you have, everybody goes for the inside in Turn 1 and everybody checks up, and he went for the outside and he wasn’t wrong and then when you get to the hairpin everybody covers up, but when he went to divebomb somebody arched it and he was unlucky.

“But I’d rather see him try than just sit there, because next time he does it the guy knows he’s coming.

“And when you’re passing somebody and and they know you’re coming, they’ll give you the room because they know you’re OK with hitting them.”

With the Aston Martin team owned by Stroll’s father Lawrence, it has been repeatedly claimed over the years that the team exists purely as a vehicle for Stroll’s F1 career.

However, Sky F1 commentator David Croft feels the team’s success this year – combined with the recently agreed deal to compete with Honda power from 2026 – means that point no longer applies.

He said: “I think we’re long past the debate as to Lawrence bought Racing Point for Lance just so Lance could race in F1.

“That argument, I think, has long gone now because what we have is a very competitive team and car on the grid, and whatever the reasons for Lawrence Stroll’s involvement the benefits far outweigh [the argument that] he’s just done it for his son.

“There’s 800 people at Silverstone who are getting their mortgage paid now when that team might have folded a few years ago, and we’ve got a state-of-the-art facility being created and you have a Honda contract and Honda coming back into F1.

“I think it’s really exciting times and I think Lance is more than good enough to hold his own in Formula 1, otherwise he’d never have got a pole, he’d never have got podiums, he’d never have been the youngest guy ever to start on the front row and he’d never have won Championships coming up into Formula 1.”