Ralf Schumacher tells Lance Stroll to ‘forget the race’ as Fernando Alonso chases ’33’

Michelle Foster
Lance Stroll is helped from his Aston Martin. Bahrain March 2023

Lance Stroll is helped from his Aston Martin. Bahrain March 2023

Although Lance Stroll insists he was “feeling alright” after Friday’s practice in Bahrain, Ralf Schumacher believes he should “forget about the race” and hand the Aston Martin over to Felipe Drugovich.

Less than two weeks after breaking a wrist in a cycling accident, Stroll returned to the cockpit of his Aston Martin AMR23 for the opening practice sessions of the new season.

The Canadian showed good pace as he finished sixth fastest, half a second down on his team-mate Fernando Alonso after which he said he was “feeling alright, a little stiff but overall it was okay.”

However, it was noted during second practice that he had to release his grip on the steering wheel, taking his left hand off as he went through the hairpin of Turn 1.

Former F1 driver Schumacher has warned the pain will only get worse on Saturday, never mind through Sunday’s 57-lap Bahrain Grand Prix.

“If it’s hurting him so much now, then he can probably forget the race,” he told Sky Deutschland. “Then Drugovich would have preferred to be given the chance. For him it will be hard now.”

His fellow commentator Sascha Roos agreed.

“When you consider that he has to do the qualifying on Saturday and then do 57 laps in the car on Sunday, I’m curious whether he’ll still be in the car in the third free practice session or you say at Aston Martin, ‘we’d rather put Felipe Drugovich in the car’.”

Stroll, though, is keen to push on and one cannot blame him given the pace of the Aston Martin AMR23, his team-mate Alonso fastest in Friday’s practice.

The Spaniard edged Max Verstappen by 0.169s with team boss Mike Krack telling Sky Germany, it was a “a good lap. But I think we have to be careful.

“Ferrari, Alpine and Mercedes didn’t drive on the soft tyres in the first practice session. We know that there’s quite a bit of lap time in there. That’s why we have to put into perspective.”

But with Alonso chasing his 33rd race win, the Spaniard having not added to his win’s tally since 2013, expectations are running high.

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Krack has downplayed the possibility.

“We don’t know if that’s possible,” he said. “We don’t have to start dreaming about it.

“We all know where we come from. We have set ourselves the goal of taking a step forward. The tests, comments and analysis are nice, but it only counts on Saturday and Sunday.

“We’ll wait and then see if we can perhaps adjust our goals again. Last year we didn’t take this step, and we mustn’t forget that.

“Therefore: leave the church in the village and work hard.”