Lance Stroll urged to be ‘brutal’ and ‘end Fernando Alonso’s career’

Thomas Maher
Lance Stroll putting his earpiece in. Austin, October 2022.

Aston Martin's Lance Stroll puts his earpiece in. Austin, October 2022.

Damon Hill says Lance Stroll needs to make it his 2023 ambition to end Fernando Alonso’s F1 career, if he’s to prove himself as a future World Champion.

Stroll has been teamed up with Fernando Alonso for the 2023 F1 season – his second successive World Champion teammate after racing alongside Sebastian Vettel in 2021 and ’22.

While the young Canadian racer held his own against Vettel, Alonso has had a clear advantage over Stroll during their first three races together having out-qualified his teammate at every race. Alonso has also scored three consecutive podium finishes, while Stroll is yet to reach the podium.

However, Stroll’s physical and mental preparations for the 2023 season took a major hit pre-season when he was involved in a cycling accident that required surgery to his wrists.

Having missed pre-season testing, Stroll has been playing catch-up ever since, finishing in sixth on his return in Bahrain. Retiring from a potential points place in Saudi Arabia with a technical failure, he finished fourth in Australia.

Damon Hill: Lance Stroll’s goal has to be ending Fernando Alonso’s career

Speaking on the F1 Nation podcast, Damon Hill joined host Tom Clarkson to discuss Lance Stroll’s form in 2023.

The 24-year-old is in his seventh season in Formula 1 and, while Stroll has occasionally shown flashes of brilliance as well as being caught up in plenty of on-track incidents and accidents, Hill said nothing short of defeating two-time World Champion Alonso will be enough to convince him that he’s capable of making a step towards a title tilt in the future.

“It [form] has to be maintained, sustained over time – it’s no good, just a blip, a one-off event,” Hill said.

“So he’d have to make it his ambition this year. He’d have to set his goal as ending Fernando Alonso’s career. Now that sounds brutal, but that’s what George Russell is trying to do [against Lewis Hamilton].

“That’s what Nico Hulkenberg is trying to do with [Kevin] Magnussen – you have to establish yourself as the undisputed king, number one in that team.”

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While Stroll hasn’t shown any signs of being a cut above the likes of aging champions Vettel or Alonso, Hill said the circumstances for him to prove himself will present themselves – it’ll be in Stroll’s hands whether he’s capable of rising to the challenge, as Hill said he found out about himself during his own F1 career.

“I think the more interesting question for me is what is someone’s ultimate potential?” the 1996 F1 World Champion ponders.

“I think Lance has got the natural ability. I don’t think, as he stands today, he is a future World Champion stand-alone on his own merits, in the same way that Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton are. He’d be knocking spots off Fernando Alonso if he was that person.

“If you want to go to the next level, then that’s what you’ve got to start doing. Speaking from my own experience, I had other levels that I had no concept of until I really was forced into those situations and had to deliver, and I know that there’s more potential in every driver than they realise.

“The question is how do you untap that potential, it takes an awful lot of commitment and an awful lot of sacrifice.”

Damon Hill suggests Lance Stroll moves away from his father’s team

Aside from his first two years in F1 when Stroll raced with an uncompetitive Williams team, the Canadian has always driven for a team owned by his father Lawrence – first for Racing Point as Stroll’s consortium took over the former Force India squad, before the rebrand into Aston Martin for 2021.

Hill suspects that Stroll will have to find his own way in the sport if he’s to shake off the image of being a driver holding onto his position due to nepotism and prove he has the talent to make his place in F1 meritorious.

“If he really wants to know the answer, then he’d have to go and drive for a different team,” he said.

“Then he’d escape all those issues, and he’d have to sink or swim.”