STROLL: ‘I’M NO PAY DRIVER’

New Wil­liams man keen to im­press

Motor Sport News - - Racing News - By Rob Lad­brook Pho­tos: LAT

New Wil­liams For­mula 1 re­cruit Lance Stroll says he’s de­ter­mined to shake off any tag of ‘pay driver’ in his de­but sea­son, and in­sists he has earned his chance in grand prix rac­ing.

Last week Cana­dian teenager Stroll was an­nounced as a Wil­liams race driver for 2017 along­side Finn Valt­teri Bot­tas. Euro­pean For­mula 3 cham­pion Stroll, 18, will re­place the re­tir­ing Felipe Massa in the Grove team’s line-up.

How­ever, Stroll’s ap­point­ment brought with it a wave of sug­ges­tions that his path to a race seat in F1 was paved by fi­nan­cial back­ing from his bil­lion­aire fa­ther Lawrence Stroll, who made his for­tune through the Tommy Hil­figer and Michael Kors fash­ion brands.

Stroll, who won 14 of the 30 Euro­pean F3 races he con­tested this year, said sug­ges­tions of him be­ing a ‘pay driver’ were wide of the mark. “Every­one has their own opin­ion and I can’t change that,” he said. “I come from money, I’m not go­ing to deny that. But I be­lieve I earned my shot in F1 be­cause I won ev­ery cham­pi­onship that I’ve com­pleted in sin­gle-seaters.

“Now the FIA have put in the su­per­li­cence [cri­te­ria] for this rea­son, so peo­ple can­not buy their way into F1, and you have to prove your­self and win in ju­nior cat­e­gories.

“I don’t want to say when I’ll be able to show I’m not just here be­cause of money be­cause that just de­pends on many things fall­ing into place. I’m just go­ing to worry about my busi­ness and I’m very happy to be here and look­ing for­ward to next sea­son.”

Stroll does have an im­pres­sive CV in ju­nior sin­gle-seaters. He won the Ital­ian For­mula 4 ti­tle in 2014 be­fore win­ning the 2015 Toy­ota Rac­ing Series and grad­u­at­ing di­rectly to Euro­pean F3. He was fifth in his de­but sea­son, tak­ing one race win, be­fore dom­i­nat­ing this sea­son’s cham­pi­onship with the Prema Pow­erteam. He was also part of the Fer­rari Driver Acad­emy scheme be­fore join­ing Wil­liams as a re­serve driver for this sea­son.

Stroll is the sec­ond-youngest driver ever to be signed to an F1 race seat, fol­low­ing Max Ver­stap­pen, who was also the last racer to make the jump from Euro F3 straight to F1.

Wil­liams’ Claire Wil­liams said: “There have been a lot of com­ments about Lance’s back­ground and I want to make it clear that Wil­liams has been a team that has made a state­ment of in­tent that we would not al­low fi­nan­cial con­sid­er­a­tions to in­flu­ence our driver choices. That has been the case this year.

“Money doesn’t drive per­for­mance – you ei­ther have tal­ent or you don’t. Lance has proved he has tal­ent by do­ing what he’s done so far. He has to do the job next year, and he will do that, to dis­pel those ru­mours.”

Stroll dom­i­nated Euro­pean F3 in ’16 Stroll in for Massa (main photo)

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