Stroll in the Park: Critic Club Membership at a Low

Williams driver Lance Stroll had an excellent weekend in Monza. He converted a front-row start into a strong points finish, fending off his highly experienced teammate in the closing laps and silencing his critics.

He made only one small error over the weekend, a lock-up at turn one in the second stint that may have prevented a top six finish.

“I felt very good on the second stint, on the soft tyre, catching Esteban again. But then I made a mistake and I locked up into Turn 1, which was devastating, because I went from attacking him to backing off and defending from Felipe all race.

That was pretty nerve-racking, it came close at the end, good wheel-to-wheel racing, but great fun.” – Lance Stroll

Technical staff within the team remain baffled about the strong pace of the FW40 in the wet, maybe they should rename their 2017 challenger to the WD40. They ran a bit in a drenched FP3 and went fastest, maybe this brief amount of time on-track was enough to give Stroll and Massa a feel for the car in the extreme conditions on display Saturday.

Securing seventh saw Stroll outscore Massa, who finished eighth, and closes the Canadian up to the Brazilian with seven points separating them in the standings. Given the wide pre-season belief that 2017 would be a development year for Stroll, a chance to acclimatise and get used to Formula 1, his points tally so far is evidence that his performances are at an acceptable level already for the Williams team. It’s also worth noting that outside the top six drivers, Stroll has led more laps this season than the rest of the field.

But the Williams team has fallen off in terms of performance, the last morsels of hope that their podium scoring 2014/2015 form could be upturned look to have vanished. They will have to start again to build momentum given that this season, they have emerged as a midfield team and nothing special.

It’s really difficult to see the leg that Stroll’s critics could stand on after the performance in Monza. The fight towards the end with Massa was particularly great. Both drivers were aggressive but respectful to one another, and if Stroll’s critics were accurate, the Canadian would have cocked it up and collided with his teammate… But he didn’t.

Williams’ 2018 driver lineup remains uncertain, with both Stroll and Massa out of contract. The Brazilian has announced that he will race in Formula E when he leaves F1, but Stroll will surely be racing this season with the idea of retaining his position within the Williams team. Based on his season so far, you would expect the team to resign him alongside either Massa, if he’s thinking of racing another year in F1, or another driver.

At only the age of 18, Stroll has become the youngest driver to secure a podium and also to secure a front-row start. It’s the potential that makes Stroll an exciting prospect and after a season of experience at Williams we can expect him to only get stronger in 2018, and hopefully, the car that Williams roll out will be a bit better too.