Lance Stroll is likely to stay at Williams Martini Racing next year as the team “does not like to split from good drivers without good reason“, says Claire Williams.
After a rookie season in which he became the youngest driver to finish on a Formula 1 podium, Stroll has struggled to get to grips with the FW41 machinery for 2018. Whilst he hasn’t had a retirement yet, he’s picked up just one points finish in six races and has regularly been wildly off the pace in both qualifying and racing.
Adding to his woes are rookies Charles Leclerc and team-mate Sergey Sirotkin. Sirotkin has out-qualified Stroll at four of the six races this year (though, to Stroll’s credit, the Russian has only beaten him once), whilst Leclerc has been a revelation in Formula 1. He scored a sixth-place finish in only his fourth race, followed by a tenth-place finish the race after – and all in a Sauber. Whilst many are looking at Leclerc as the future of Formula 1, Stroll is still battling his “pay driver” reputation in his second year of competing.
This reputation wasn’t shifted last time out at the Monaco Grand Prix either. The principality is one of the jewels in the motor racing triple crown, and is known for exposing racing drivers’ skills – or lack thereof.
Stroll was a regular on team radio, complaining of a headrest issue in qualifying which he opted not to fix, then during the race to complain of an issue. That time it was a puncture – the first of two he picked up two during the race, eventually finishing two laps behind the leader.
Despite his tumultuous start to the season, Williams Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams said that Stroll has “lived up to expectations“, and that she didn’t see him leaving the team soon.
“He has worked very hard to improve the points he had to improve,” Williams said.
“He’s under a lot of pressure, getting criticism that is not deserved and I think he’s showing tremendous maturity in dealing with all of it.
“I am very proud of the work he has done for us and I hope that we will soon be able to give him a car that will allow him to show his full potential.
“I honestly believe he has a great career ahead of him in Formula 1.
“We’re not talking about a contract yet, but we think Lance has lived up to our expectations so far and we do not like to separate from drivers without good reason.”
Stroll’s next race will be his home grand prix and the site of his first points score – Canada.