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2023 will be Lance Stroll’s seventh season in Formula 1. In that time he has developed into a driver who largely stays out of trouble, drives within his limits and occasionally surprises with strong performances. He also never finished better than 11th in the championship standings.
This is the tenth episode of our driver-by-driver preview of the 2023 Formula One season. This weekend we will be covering Aston Martin and McLaren. You can find the rest of our previews here.
Lance Stroll’s father, Lawrence Stroll, owns both the Aston Martin F1 Team and part of Aston Martin itself. It’s no secret that that’s the main reason Stroll is here; In fact, Stroll has raced for various forms of the team since his father bought it as Sahara Force India in 2019.
HOW HE GET HERE
The broader answer to that question is no secret: Lance Stroll got into Formula 1 because his father is a proven billionaire who owns a significant stake in an entire car company. However, his actual resume is a little more compelling.
Stroll spent just three years in cars before entering F1, jumping two rungs down the ladder to enter the series after a successful 2016 Formula 3 Europe season. However, it was a remarkably strong season; Stroll convincingly won a title in a field that happened to include current Mercedes driver George Russell on his way up. It brought him to Williams in 2017, where he rebounded from his first three F1 races of his career, eventually clinching a podium in Baku.
He continued with Williams in 2018, a far less successful season in which he only scored points twice. At the same time, his father was looking for other opportunities for his son. That evaluation process eventually ended with Stroll buying what was then Force India and beating Nikita Mazepin’s similarly wealthy father for the honor. Not a single Formula 1 fan was surprised when Stroll joined the newly renamed Racing Point team in 2019.
Stroll didn’t make a serious splash with the better team in 2019 but the program seemed to catch fire in 2020 and he shone with the faster car. He scored his second and third career podiums and two more top five finishes, but the more prestigious highlight was his pole in an odd race on a slippery and unpredictable Istanbul Park Circuit.
The team was renamed Aston Martin ahead of the 2021 season. 2023 will be his third in the team’s special colour, British Racing Green.
HOW 2022 WENT
While the team then known as Racing Point fielded strong midfield cars for years, culminating in a winning 2020 season, it has struggled since renaming from Aston Martin. The team has only finished fifth or better once in the past two years, first as a victim of the rule change that violated low-rake downforce setups in 2021 and then with the adjustment to an all-new rulebook in 2022. That year four world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel picked up points in just ten races and finished just 12th in the drivers’ standings.
Stroll scored eight points, enough to finish 15th. His highlight of the season was Singapore, a race where he finished 6th and passed Vettel on race day. Otherwise it was an unspectacular season for the Canadian.
TARGETS FOR 2023
At this point it can be a moot point to expect a major improvement on the track from Stroll. He’s entering the seventh year of an already fairly lengthy F1 career for someone without a race win, and his father’s ownership of the team means he has the job security never to worry about promising Formula 2 drivers entering waiting for the starting blocks. Stroll instead kicks off 2023 with a new low-stakes teammate match against a new former champion, Fernando Alonso.
Stroll had a pretty good performance against Vettel in 2021, although that performance has waned over the past season. Alonso could be a tougher challenge. Despite being six years older and significantly less successful than Vettel in his F1 career, Alonso is a notoriously difficult teammate. Part of that reputation comes from his history as a difficult person to work with, but more of it comes from his competitive determination and on-track performance. While Esteban Ocon surpassed Alonso at Alpine last year, he did it right in the middle constant quotes about their rocky relationship. Internal battles are scheduled for Stroll both on and off the track.
A SUCCESSFUL SEASON LOOKS LIKE THIS…
With so few external threats to his continued F1 career and even less realistic chances of promotion to a bigger team, Lance Stroll’s 2023 F1 season will most likely be about his battle with Alonso. Can he beat the aging champion? Can Alonso’s experience as a veteran help the team develop a better car and move up the grid? Do either Stroll or Alonso have a podium this season, which would be the first for the team since the 2021 name change? While his career should continue one way or the other, Stroll’s seventh season hinges on these questions.