Don’t tar Stroll with the pay driver brush

Date published: November 4 2016

Lance Stroll may be arriving on the Formula 1 grid with the backing of his billionaire father but the Canadian has already proven that he is not a pay driver.

Williams confirmed Stroll’s signing in an announcement on Thursday with the 18-year-old having to defend his place on the grid.

“I come from money, I am not going to deny that,” said the son of fashion billionaire Lawrence Stroll. “But I believe I have my shot in F1 because I won every championship I competed in single-seaters.

“I won F4, I went to New Zealand and won the Toyota Racing Series, and I won the F3 European championship in 2016.

“Now the FIA has put in a superlicence for just that reason because people cannot just buy their way in to F1. You have to prove yourself and win in junior categories, and that is all I can really say about that.”

And rightly so.

Whether he has landed his drives in the past because of his father’s cash is irrelevant given that Stroll has produced the results.

Compare his early career to Max Verstappen’s, Formula 1’s other teenager, and there are a lot of signs pointing to another wonder kid.

Verstappen’s raced for Van Amersfoort Racing in the 2014 European Formula 3 Championship where he won 10 races on his way to third in the standings.

Stroll, with a bit more experience behind him which included a championship title in Italian Formula 4 and in the Toyota Racing series, secured 14 wins in his second season in the European Formula 3 Championship – and claimed the title.

20 podiums in total, 14 pole positions and 13 fastest laps compared to Verstappen’s 16, seven and seven.

Yes he made mistakes in 2015, his first season in European Formula 3 Championship, where he managed just one race win and received a one-race ban for moving in the braking zone and causing a crash at Spa, but he learnt from that and bounced back to end his season with six podiums, including that one win.

Stroll has also had to do it up against some really good drivers, beating his Prema Powerteam team-mate Maximilian Gunther by a whopping 187 points.

“He has had very, very good team-mates in Maximilian Gunther and Nick Cassidy. George Russell, a McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year, is a very talented individual and on his day will be unbeatable. Lance has made them look silly,” commentator Tom Gaymor told Sky Sports.

“Yes, he has had a lot of support from Williams. Yes, he has technical support from Williams at the circuit, but he still has to go out there and do that.

“There is a huge percentage of drivers who have a huge amount of support because of the financial infrastructure that they have got and the people that they bring into their teams to support them and can’t even replicate finishing in the top 10. So Lance has done an incredible job.”

He may have access to more money than you and I could ever dream of, his racing career may have been a lot smoother because of it, but Stroll’s results speak for themselves as he has delivered.

Now let’s give the lad a chance.

Michelle Foster