STROLL: ‘I’M NO PAY DRIVER’
New Williams man keen to impress
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.”