Stroll: Kubica’s practice run will help Williams

Date published: February 19 2018

Lance Stroll believes Williams will benefit greatly from having Robert Kubica on board, especially when he does practice runs on grand prix Fridays.

Kubica has joined Williams as their reserve driver for the 2018 season.

As part of his deal the Pole will get behind the wheel of FW41 in testing as well as three FP1 sessions; Spain, Austria and Abu Dhabi.

“It’s great for us and great for the team,” Stroll told F1i.com.

“Robert has a tremendous amount of experience in Formula 1 and can really help us go in the right direction with correlation between the simulator and the car.

“Doing a couple of FP1s, I really believe it can help.

“The fact that he’s driven so many great F1 cars, he’s competed with some really good teams, he can give us some good knowledge, it will definitely help us because it’s going to be a very competitive year.”

Williams defends her ‘just a pay driver’

Date published: February 16 2018

With two pay drivers now racing for Williams, Claire Williams has defended her team’s line-up saying Williams “only put talented drivers in our car.”

Last season Lance Stroll joined Williams with the help of his father’s billions while this year the team has signed Sergey Sirotkin and his reported 15 million in sponsorship as their second driver.

The decision raised eyebrows amongst F1 fans given that Sirotkin beat Robert Kubica, and his dreaming of returning to F1 competition, to the seat.

Williams has defended her line-up.

“Our decision making process is so much more complex than deciding to put a driver in a race car because they have some cash,” said Williams.

“It’s nothing new in Formula One that drivers come with money either and thank goodness that they do.

“I think it is incredibly naive to make the statement: ‘he’s just a pay driver’.

“It’s great if a driver has financial partners, it’s great for the team and the driver. It’s an expensive sport.”

She added: “We would only put talented drivers in our car.

“This a dangerous business and we are not going to put someone in our car just because they come with money.”

‘Hamilton handles pressure, Vettel folded’

Date published: February 13 2018

Lance Stroll is hoping to take inspiration from Lewis Hamilton, not Sebastian Vettel, as he progresses through his Formula 1 career.

Stroll will be the most experienced driver at Williams in 2018, starting his second campaign alongside rookie Sergey Sirotkin.

And the Canadian wants to emulate Hamilton and the way he applies himself to races when the pressure is on.

“You saw in the title race last year how well Lewis handles pressure, (Sebastian) Vettel folded, but Lewis was able to handle that expectation,” Stroll said via the Daily Express.

“His car wasn’t always easy to drive. Mercedes struggled at a few races.

“But he still managed to get the most out of it and score points when he had to. He was consistent throughout the whole year. He really was on it, he was determined to score points every weekend.

“Hats off to him, he completely deserves the success he has had. He is extremely talented and I hope I can have half the success he’s had in my career.”

Hamilton and Vettel are both tied on four World Championships apiece and are set to do battle once again in 2018.

Stroll: Baku podium must be just the start

Date published: February 12 2018

Having stood on the podium in his debut campaign, Lance Stroll says that “has to just be the start” as he looks to kick on.

In 2017, his first season in the sport, the Canadian became the youngest rookie to step foot on the podium as he finished P3 in Azerbaijan at 18 years and 239 days.

He also made history as the youngest Formula One driver in history to start on the front row of a race when he lined up P2 on the Italian GP grid.

“In my first year I achieved goals that I had actually set out to achieve over the next few years,” he said in an exclusive interview with the Express & Star.

“To get on the podium, I never imagined that would happen. It was a very proud moment.

“But it has to just be the start. I know I can improve as a driver and be more competitive in all areas.

“Over the course of the year I’ve changed dramatically as a driver, I’ve learned a tremendous amount.

“I’m going to come back for the new season and be much stronger, both mentally and physically.”

Despite his achievements, Stroll has to deal with the ever-present ‘pay driver’ tag.

It has led to cricitism of the driver, however, he insists he doesn’t let it bother him.

“I stay in my little bubble – that is what I try and do,” Stroll continued.

“There is always noise out there and distractions, but you just have to block all that noise out.

“People will say things. The crucial thing for me is that I stick to my job.

“That is what I did in Azerbaijan. I blocked everything else out and I now do that in my life.

“In Baku I knew there were three very competitive drivers with quicker cars than me all chasing me down for that podium spot.

“I knew they were going to be on me right until the last lap and until I had crossed that finish line.

“I just had to take it corner by corner. I had to make sure I was right at the top of my game and I knew I couldn’t make any mistakes.

“I had to get the car home on the podium. It wasn’t easy, there were still 30 laps to go and I was in second position.

“It was a very challenging race and a very emotional race. But I did it. And it’s proven a valuable learning curve for me.”

Massa: Better not to comment

Date published: February 5 2018

Felipe Massa has refused to be drawn into a spat with Lance Stroll after his former team-mate said the Brazilian was never his mentor.

Massa’s final season in Formula 1 saw him line up alongside Stroll at Williams, his 15 years of experience in sharp contrast to Stroll’s rookie status.

Stroll, though, says he never received any guidance from Massa.

“I don’t think I had any guidance from him last year, whatsoever,” he told Motorsport.com. “He was a team-mate like any other.”

He added: “I don’t know why people seem to think there was a coach or a mentor thing going on. There wasn’t; it was just him doing his job and me doing mine, and whoever did it better finished ahead.”

As for Massa’s thoughts on his former team-mate’s comments, those remain a mystery after he refused to be drawn into a war-of-words with the Canadian…

Stroll: ‘Massa was never my mentor’

Date published: February 4 2018

A defiant Lance Stroll has denied that veteran driver and Williams team-mate Felipe Massa mentored him throughout his rookie season in Formula 1.

At various stages of the 2017 campaign, Massa compared his relationship with Stroll to the one he had with Michael Schumacher in the early stages of his career at Ferrari.

But Stroll has now said there were not really any words of wisdom exchanged and it was just a normal partnership.

“I don’t think I had any guidance from him last year, whatsoever,” Stroll told Motorsport.com. “He was a teammate like any other.

“He was busy trying to drive as fast as he could, and I was trying to drive as fast as I could. That was it. There was nothing more to it than that.”

“I don’t know why people seem to think there was a coach or a mentor thing going on. There wasn’t; it was just him doing his job and me doing mine, and whoever did it better finished ahead.

“Whether my teammate is someone with 15 years’ experience or someone of one year’s experience, my approach doesn’t change.”

Stroll finished three points behind Massa in his debut campaign and 11th in the World Drivers’ Championship.

The key drivers under pressure in 2018

All Formula 1 drivers are under pressure to perform, but the spotlight will be that little bit brighter on these drivers in the 2018 season…

Who could be dropped?

Valtteri Bottas

The Finn got his big break at Mercedes last season and while he has been praised for how well he has settled into the team, his inability to take Lewis Hamilton out of his comfort zone and his well-documented confidence issues means he finds himself on the chopping block once again.

It is a familiar situation now for Bottas, who is being kept on his toes by working under the instability that comes with been given one-year contract extensions at a time.

It makes sense for Mercedes to keep their options open, but it is hardly a ringing endorsement of Bottas’ ability and it becomes difficult for him to shake off this feeling that he is nothing more than a stop-gap option for the Silver Arrows until someone better comes along.

Bottas has also put unnecessary pressure on himself by being openly critical of his own struggles over the course of the 2017 season. After finishing P5 at the Malaysian Grand Prix, the Finn claimed he was going through “the most difficult time of my career” and there is not much room for those honest concessions in one of the most cut-throat sports around.

However, there is some hope for the ex-Williams driver. The way he kept cool under immense pressure from Sebastian Vettel to clinch the first win of his career in Russia shows there is some mental toughness – but he needs to develop that killer instinct quickly if he is to extend his stay at Mercedes.

Kimi Raikkonen

There is a sense that 2018 could be the year that the ‘Ice Man’ finally melts. When he lines up on the grid at Albert Park for the season opener, it will be five years since the 38-year-old last climbed the top step of the podium. It is a drought that has gone on for far too long.

In 2017, Raikkonen finished on the podium just seven times in a Ferrari car that proved for the first time in years that it was capable of fighting the mighty Mercedes and perhaps more damning is the fact that the Finn finished just five points ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in the standings – a driver who retired from six races last year including three of his last four. No wonder Sebastian Vettel views him as his favourite team-mate ever.

Raikkonen’s overflowing stream of below-par performances in both qualifying and races led to Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne calling him “a laggard” last season, and that criticism acted as key evidence that patience with Kimi is starting to wear a little thin.

The Finn, though, is adamant he still has the desire to win races and championships but, on current showing, even his most ardent fans will be struggling to construct a compelling argument in his defence.

Despite his shortcomings, Raikkonen remains an international treasure with his zero f***s given attitude. He’s been there, done that and given an indifferent look to the t-shirt before throwing it in the bin. A renaissance in 2018 would be warmly received as a grid without him is still not worth thinking about.

Brendon Hartley/Pierre Gasly

A testing year awaits for Toro Rosso as they begin their new relationship with those reliable folks at Honda, and trying to thrive in this high-pressure environment is the most inexperienced driver line-up on the 2018 grid.

Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly have just nine race starts between them after being drafted in by the Red Bull junior team late in the 2017 season, but they only need to look at the unfortunate case of Daniil Kvyat to know that Dr Helmut Marko has a shorter fuse than the lifespan of a Honda power unit.

Kvyat, ‘The Torpedo’, engaged in one too many battles in 2017 and became the equivalent of a child’s former favourite toy, discarded for something new and shiny. Even when he made a brief reappearance at the United States Grand Prix and secured a points finish, it still was not enough to keep him in the seat.

With such ruthless decision-making in action, Hartley and Gasly will be aware that the opportunity to race in Formula 1 can be taken away just as quickly as it was given to them.

They were unable to truly showcase their talents last season due to the unreliability and fears over the Renault engine and knowing Honda’s wretched time with McLaren, it would come as no surprise to see the two drivers having a similar situation on their hands in 2018.

Who needs to step up?

Daniel Ricciardo

Pressure is not a word you would usually associate with the man who has his pearly whites on constant display, but it is crunch time for the smiling assassin.

Well into the final year of his Red Bull contract and possibilities of joining either Mercedes or Ferrari in 2019, Ricciardo’s decision to delay resolving his future means there is a risk that his stock could fall.

At 28, Ricciardo is at the perfect stage of his career to be able to dictate his terms and land a big-money contract, yet the decision is one that could define his whole career. Will he become a World Champion or join the lengthy list of ‘nearly drivers’ who only had a short sip of success?

Whilst Red Bull have to prove to Ricciardo that they can deliver a car which is capable of producing titles again, Ricciardo needs to be convinced that team-mate Max Verstappen is not the only chosen one at Red Bull and, at the same time, produce the performances that keep Mercedes and Ferrari interested in securing his services.

Getting the better of the Dutchman in qualifying will certainly help with that, he was out-qualified 13-7 last season.

Lance Stroll

Well that escalated quickly. From racking up an expensive bill in car damages at pre-season testing in 2017 to effectively becoming team leader at Williams in the space of 12 months. There is a lot of pressure on the Canadian to perform this year after using his rookie season to find his feet.

Williams’ 2018 line-up conundrum may have rumbled on and on, but the end result is the fact that the Grove based team have lost a hugely experienced driver in Felipe Massa and replaced him with another driver armed with money bags in Sergey Sirotkin.

The Russian may well have the talent to go alongside the cash, but Stroll will initially be the one that Williams are banking on to bring in the points on a regular basis like Massa did. Question is: can he make the improvement?

The answer should be yes given that Stroll now has a full year under his belt and is not heading into the unknown as much, but, despite showing on the odd occasion that he is worthy of his place in Formula 1, there were still too many weekends where he was largely anonymous.

As a result, the question marks over him firmly remain. If Sirotkin is able to come straight into the team and get the better of Stroll with just limited experience in free practice sessions to draw upon, then those doubts are only going to grow.

Romain Grosjean

It is a case of now or never for Romain Grosjean in 2018. He has guided Haas through their embryonic years in Formula 1 and will spend a third campaign with the American outfit whilst trying to catch the attention of those above. The problem he has is getting anyone else to take notice.

He still retains hope of making a “dream” move to Ferrari – using Bottas’ sudden switch to Mercedes as inspiration – and, just in case the Scuderia did not get the message, has been learning Italian, too.

It is not just Ferrari that is on Grosjean’s mind, as he is also open to rejoining Renault at a time where they will be hoping to change the top three into a big four. Grosjean clearly still has ambitions he wants to fulfill, but you will struggle to find many others believing in him unless he has a stellar season.

Grosjean has been openly criticised by his own team for his excessive moaning, whilst Mercedes boss Toto Wolff claimed last season that the Frenchman was “lucky” to still be in Formula 1. The negative perception of him has to change.

Mark Scott