Williams Martini Racing driver Lance Stroll has had a difficult start to his rookie season in F1, but despite the criticism, even from his fellow countrymen at times, the Canadian has always believed in his own abilities, and never once doubted that he would not come good eventually.
Now with half his maiden year done, the 18-year-old appears to have got the initial frustrations and bad luck out of the way, picking up two points finishes and a podium at three of the last four races.
Things are looking up for Stroll and he is loving driving in F1 right now, as he explained to the official formula one website recently.
“Ha, lately it’s been only good. The last few races have been my own personal fairy tale. Being in the points was fantastic – being on the podium was just awesome.
“Yes, there have been unlucky moments at the start of the season with things out of our control – technical issues, people having contact with other people – and that has cost us points.”
The first three races of the season were certainly not easy for the young rookie, who did not get to see the chequered flag until the fourth round of the year in Russia, but none of those DNF’s could really be blamed on driver error.
A brake failure in Australia saw the Canadian’s race end early, whilst a collision with Sergio Perez deemed a racing incident on lap one in China, and a crazy move by Carlos Sainz Jr in Bahrain also saw the 18-year-old have to take an early bath.
There were no points for Stroll in Russia or Monaco either and it looked like the Canadian was never going to catch a break or fulfil his own expectations, but crucially that bleak situation did not get Stroll down.
“I like to refer to it as ‘frustrating’, and that clearly was Bahrain.
“I did not finish the first two races, as I had a technical problem in Australia and the issue with Sergio Perez in China, and then again something in Bahrain – three in a row. That looked like a series.
“That was frustrating, as it had looked as if we could manoeuvre ourselves into a position to score some points.”
Stroll’s luck turned for round six however, made even better by the fact that he scored his first F1 points at his home race, with a ninth place finish in Montreal.
He followed that up with a place on the third step of the podium in Azerbaijan, making Stroll the second youngest podium finisher ever, before a further point came in Austria.
Stroll always knew he was competent enough to do well in this arena however, and so mentally, he has always been prepared for the challenge.
“Not so much. If it comes earlier or later… you almost cannot influence it, but I knew that I was capable of doing results so I wasn’t panicking, as I knew that it was all a matter of time.
“But to really do it in Canada, that was great. A great day, the home race.”
The 18-year-old is not sure how much recent results will change people’s perceptions of him, but that does not bother the young Canadian in the slightest.
“As I see it I didn’t come into F1 only because of the money. I was the youngest ever driver to win the F3 championship, with a massive margin over the runner-up. These are the facts.
“Yes, it is easy to judge from only what you see from the outside, but the people who are really close to me and who are important to me never doubted what I am capable of doing – and we have shown the rest!
Achieving those good results has not made things easier for Stroll either, who says that although such performances are fantastic, seeing improvements in his driving, and working with the team to achieve the perfect set-up, give him much more confidence to do well.
“F1 is never easy. It is always challenging.
“It is much more about other things: me improving the way I drive or me working with the team. We have changed a lot on the car since Baku and that helped me a lot in my performance.”
A private test in the week between Canada and Azerbaijan, saw Stroll put in his strongest drive yet to claim the first podium finish of his career in Baku, and also went towards proving he has the right to be in F1, despite the “comes from money” tag that hangs over him.
The 18-year-old has also shown that he is resilient enough to take whatever criticism comes his way, and his twelfth place in the drivers’ championship standings, just five points adrift of his far more experienced team-mate Felipe Massa, also adds to his argument that the facts surrounding his ability, speak for themselves.
Add his recent performances to the fact that he won the European F1 championship in 2016 by a massive margin, and sooner or later people will have to start take Stroll’s chances of remaining in F1, a little more seriously.