A pay driver? No, Williams’ Lance Stroll is good enough for Formula 1

A pay driver? No, Williams’ Lance Stroll is good enough for Formula 1
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Lance Stroll deserves his chance in F1 and should not be dismissed as a pay driver according to Tom Gaymor who commentated on his European F3 title success.

Stroll will make his grand prix debut with Williams in 2017, but has been branded a pay driver – a label saddled with negative connotations – due to the financial backing from his father, Lawrence, a billionaire. 

But how good is the 18-year-old? And does he deserve his F1 opportunity in 2017? We spoke to Tom Gaymor, who has commentated on Stroll’s title-winning Formula 3 success this year for Eurosport…

Is he ready for Formula 1?
Tom Gaymor:
“I can’t imagine Williams would put him in the car if they didn’t think he was ready. Frank Williams has got to have been impressed with his character and probably echoed some of the points below himself. Bring on Australia.”

How good is Lance Stroll?
TG: “The reality of the situation is that he is very good because you cannot achieve what he has achieved without being good.

“I don’t care what anybody says, anybody that has been a racing driver or has experience in the sport will understand you cannot win multiple championships, you cannot win an F3 championship without being good.

He has earned his stripes and if Williams think he is ready then regardless of the amount of money he is bringing, they think he is ready.

Tom Gaymor, F3 Commentator

“He has had very, very good team-mates in Maximilian Gunther and Nick Cassidy. George Russell, a McLaren Autosport Young Driver of the Year, is a very talented individual and on his day will be unbeatable. Lance has made them look silly.

“Yes, he has had a lot of support from Williams. Yes, he has technical support from Williams at the circuit, but he still has to go out there and do that.

“There is a huge percentage of drivers who have a huge amount of support because of the financial infrastructure that they have got and the people that they bring into their teams to support them and can’t even replicate finishing in the top 10. So Lance has done an incredible job.

How does European F3 work?

  • 10 rounds at circuits in France, Hungary, Austria, Belgium, Holland, Italy and Germany
  • Three races at each round

“Last year he came under scrutiny because his race craft wasn’t great, but he has learnt from that. He came into this year as the favourite and it didn’t start that well for him. He won the first race at Paul Ricard, he had one podium Hungary, he had one podium out of three races at Pau and it wasn’t until the fourth round of the year (10 races later) that he had his second win.

“In that period of time Gunther had two wins, Russell had a win, Ben Barnicoat was going well with two wins as well. It would have been easy for him to capitulate under that pressure.

“He rose above that, found his own rhythm and had the strength of character to settle into his environment and once the wins came he had the ability to keep winning. That is not always as easy as you think it is going to be, some drivers when they win say they feel next time out it is a lot easier, but some drivers fear having to replicate that, it can add pressure as well – particularly when you have three, four, five wins on the bounce.”

What makes Stroll stand out as a cut above?
“With Lance, what has impressed me is getting over two hurdles, bouncing back from his ban in 2015.”

Stroll was handed a one-race ban for moving in the braking zone at Les Combes at Spa. Running three abreast, he squeezed Mikkel Jensen and Felix Rosenqvist to the outside of the circuit and the three collided and crashed out of the race.

“Being able to withstand the criticism he faced last year – and it was scathing – because to have that amount of scrutiny as a youngster when you are insecure, trying to develop as a human being, trying to be accepted in a new world for you, it can be very damaging. He had the strength of character to rise above that.

“That will be very important when he goes to Formula 1 because unequivocally he is going to face scrutiny when he gets to Formula 1. It is going to happen, it is the world stage and you only have to look at drivers that have gone before him. If he makes two or three mistakes people are going to get their claws into him.

“He’s already proved he has a strong character – that will be important – and ability of dealing with the pressure of being a favourite and going out and delivering results. A lot of people get to Formula 1 by dodging that bullet. They don’t have to deal with the pressure, they don’t have to get the results, they can finish fourth or fifth in a championship and, with their funding, go up.

“Lance has answered his critics, he could not have done anymore, he has wrapped up an incredible amount of wins and at the end of the day beaten some very talented racing drivers to a very important title.

What might be potential issues for him when he gets to Formula 1?
“I think he’s only ever been within one stable, that stable has been built around him.

“It is no secret that the Stroll family invested in Prema, he’s done a lot of testing within that environment, he’s done all his racing within that one environment, the testing he is doing with Williams is with a car that they have bought and a team they have created to do that over this winter.

“So when he goes into Williams, he will feel accepted and they will make him part of the team because that is what any strong team does. But he will face that challenge of being under scrutiny and having to deliver within an environment he is unsure of.

“How will he deal with that? Only time will tell, but in my mind he is good enough.”

Would he have been better served with more years in junior categories?
“I am not a fan of seeing people moving up the ladder too quickly, people will always look at Max Verstappen and say well he has done it and they are always looking for the next Verstappen, the next Michael Schumacher, the next Ayrton Senna.

“Is Lance Stroll that? He’s only done two years in cars, I don’t think there is any point in hypothesising, but he has earned his stripes and if Williams think he is ready then regardless of the amount of money he is bringing, they think he is ready.

“For the feeder series’ and their health I do think people should be encouraged to develop. But Verstappen, it doesn’t matter what car you drive, he would develop as an individual.

“There were question marks over that before he went to Formula 1 and rightfully so, but once he got into Formula 1 he showed that as an individual he has total understanding of his process, he has total understanding of what to do, so he has developed as a human being, he has developed as an athlete. He’s done that incredibly quickly, that’s down to his maturity and his ability to learn quickly.

“There have been examples before where drivers had great results but had not quite been ready. Romain Grosjean at Renault was one, but he went back, developed as a human and an athlete and he’s come back to F1 as a very complete racing driver.

“Lance is very mature, he’s learnt quickly, he’s come through two important hurdles as mentioned above. Is he the complete human being, the complete athlete? No, but neither is Verstappen. Will he be able to rise to occasion? We will see that in the first three, four, five grands prix.”

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