Lance Stroll: the ultimate ‘nepo baby’ or future race winner?

By Rishi Tanna

The Lance Stroll cycle. Pre-season hope. A solid start. An unlucky streak. A drop in performance. Some late-season stunning drives. He always leaves us with more questions than answers. With back-to-back fifth-place finishes, including an outrageous comeback from P19 in Vegas, it feels like the cycle is complete for another year. So, can Lance Stroll prove the critics wrong and be a Formula One mainstay? Or is this finally going to be the end of his F1 career?

The 25-year-old is the most unique driver on the grid. The Executive Chairman of Aston Martin and founder of the Aston Martin F1 team is his father, Lawrence Stroll. Lawrence has not only funded Lance’s F1 career but secured him a ‘permanent’ seat when he bought a team in 2018, Racing Point. He then bought the Aston Martin car company and renamed the old team. This has kept Lance as his driver for the last five years. Nicknames like ‘Daddy’s Cash,’ have followed him since. Lawrence has chosen to remove arguably more talented drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez in favour of his son. Lance getting seats throughout his junior career has come with major financial benefits for those teams. ‘Cash is king,’ as Lewis Hamilton famously once said.

Whilst I can’t overestimate how much money makes the F1 world go round, you miss the point if that’s all you talk about with Lance. ‘Pay driver,’ is a term thrown at people who use their financial status to get racing seats. You need money in F1 to pay for the eye-wateringly expensive junior categories. Former driver Ralf Schumacher estimated it would cost more than 13 million dollars! Only Esteban Ocon and Lewis Hamilton have come from relatively working-class backgrounds, and I wouldn’t describe 90% of the grid as ‘pay drivers.’ It’s a rich person’s game, and people like Lance are a product of an unfair system.

Lance can’t ‘lose’ his seat, which some argue impacts his results

Lance proved his worth during his impressive junior career, winning the F3 Championship win in 2016. 14 wins against George Russell, Calum Ilott and Guanyu Zhou is no fluke. An incredible podium in his debut F1 season driving for Williams was proving the doubters wrong, especially in the notorious Baku streets. He remains the second youngest podium sitter at 18 years old.

Lance can’t ‘lose’ his seat, which some argue impacts his results. Pressure makes diamonds in F1. You sink or you swim. Nick De Vries lasted ten races before being sacked, whilst Lance has survived four or five periods that could have lost him his seat. He has been beaten by his teammate Fernando Alonso comprehensively by 127 points. He couldn’t quite keep up with Sergio Perez and just about matched Sebastian Vettel. It’s not quite good enough. Something seemed to snap in Qatar for Lance. He had an angry media outburst and shoved his trainer. The writing was on the wall. And yet I waited to write this piece because the cycle knew he’d find some pace before the season was out.  

Lawrence is a smart businessperson. The move into F1 was perfectly timed with its growth, and if Lance is a problem for his vision, he’ll know the right decision to make. Even if that means a P45 for his son. The reason he’s not pulled the plug is because Lance isn’t a problem for him. In the short term. Alonso is a top 5 driver on the grid, with supreme confidence that borders arrogance. He likes the be a ‘number one’ driver, prioritized over his teammate, unlike his failed partnerships with Ocon or Hamilton that turned sour. Aston Martin will be desperate for an improvement from Lance, but he just about gets enough points for now with age on his side. 

It’s a rich person’s game, and people like Lance are a product of an unfair system

Lance has a year left on his deal, and whether he gets another one will inevitably depend on the movement of drivers in higher up teams. Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, and Yuki Tsunoda will all be out of contract at the end of next season. Aston Martin and Honda are entering a partnership for engines soon, so Yuki would be a great fit. If they believe they are producing a race-winning car that soon, they’ll want a high-profile signing.

Lance is good enough for F1. If he lost his seat, he wouldn’t be a bad option for the likes of Williams, Alfa Romeo or Haas. The grass isn’t always greener. Many driver moves have failed, and sticking with Lance might be the lesser of two evils. He is in control of his future with one or two tweaks needed to find that crucial consistency. 

Lance needs to have a conversation with himself, and probably his dad. Does he believe he can step up? Or does he want to take his talent to a series where he can not only thrive, but potentially enjoy far more than the crushing pressure of F1? Aston Martin’s new Valkyrie project for the World Endurance Championship is coming soon, and I believe Lance Stroll is the best driver for the job.  

Image: Lukas Raich via Wikimedia Commons

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