Williams Martini Racing driver Lance Stroll hit back at one of his biggest critics, Jacques Villeneuve, after taking the first podium of his F1 career at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, following the French-Canadian’s harsh criticism of the rookie.
The 1997 world champion made his opinion on fellow compatriot Stroll well and truly clear in an interview with autoweek.com, after the 18-year-old battled to get his first point on the board, at his home race of Canada, stating, “Results speak for themselves. … It is one of the worst rookie performances in the history of Formula 1.”
Stroll says he was not surprised to hear the former F1 star’s comments however, and takes what Villeneuve says with a pinch of salt, as he explained to the National Post in a recent interview with the Canadian publication.
“I’m not surprised, I don’t really know him that well … I guess he can say whatever he wants and it won’t really shock me.
“I’ve heard in the past — I don’t really read his stuff or read anyone’s stuff — but I’ve heard he’s never really supported me. Even last year when I won the European championship in F3, he had excuses behind the reason I won.
“And this year, when I went through some tough times, he’s kind of put me down so I guess it wasn’t really a shocker for me to hear what he said.”
The Canadian has stated that he does not take any notice of what is being said about him in the media, as he is fully focused on doing the best job he can, as he gets to live out what is a lifelong dream realised for him.
“I mean, it is what it is. I don’t really care … it doesn’t really bother me. People talk.
“What’s important to me is the people who are surrounding me and the people I work with. So he’s just a voice in the paddock and whatever.
“When it comes to putting a result on the table and silencing all the critics, I mean that’s not what I do this for. I think it’s just noise in the background and I’m just happy for myself, for my team, for the people who are in this with me.
“All the haters, they’ll always hate.”
Stroll has come under plenty of criticism so far this season, mainly due to the fact that billionaire father Lawrence stumped up the cash to get his son a sure-fire seat in F1. However, the young Canadian did win the FIA European F3 Championship in dominating style last year, so does have some credentials to allow him to back up his stance that he is in the sport on merit.
The 18-year-old got 2017 off to a bad start, finishing just two of the first six races of the year, though bad luck played a big part in those DNF’s with third-party involvement coming into play.
You also have to take into account that the Canadian had never driven a F1 car in a race environment prior to this season, and perhaps cut him a bit of slack whilst he takes time to familiarise himself with the all new tracks as well as the car.
Stroll is pretty relaxed about it all however, and strongly believes he will one day be able to shake the “pay driver” tag.
“Whatever, I’m just doing my thing. That’s it. That’s all that matters. Just do my thing.”
Having taken that first podium of his career, in a race that Stroll put in a solid performance, despite the chaos going on around him, the Canadian’s confidence will no doubt be sky-high right now, and it is amazing what a little bit of self-belief can do for you!