Lance Stroll can bounce back and silence the doubters
Lance Stroll has endured a difficult few races, but he is more than capable of turning it round.
Stroll's season prior to the Eifel GP
In the first 10 races of the season, Stroll looked like a completely different driver compared to the one we saw in 2019. Last year Stroll regularly struggled to get out of Q1 and finished the season in 15th place with just 21 points to his name.
This season, Stroll has proven that he deserves to be in F1. After 10 races, Stroll had accumulated 57 points, which was almost triple the amount he managed after 21 races last year. By this point in the season, the Canadian had secured 4 top-6 finishes, including an excellent 3rd at the Italian GP. Coupled with this, he had scored points in every race that he finished. Up until the 8th round of the season in Monza, Stroll was 4th in the championship, only behind the two Mercedes drivers and Max Verstappen before suffering two unfortunate retirements.
It could have been even better...
At the season-opening GP in Austria, Stroll qualified a respectable 9th which was his first Q3 appearance since the 2019 Italian GP- 8 races earlier. Lance would have been on course to score a decent haul of points on race-day until he was forced to retire due to a reliability issue.
At the Tuscan GP, Stroll with the benefit of the newly upgraded RP20, was running P4 and had a good chance to score his 2nd consecutive podium finish in as many weeks. However disaster struck on lap 43 when he suffered a rear tyre failure which abruptly ended his afternoon. At least 12 points, but potentially 15 were lost that day.
At the next round in Russia, Stroll was almost immediately taken out of the Grand Prix on the first lap by the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc. The Monegasque driver ambitiously divided up the inside of Stroll going into turn 5. Stroll gave him racing room but this was not enough to prevent the Canadian from being punted into the barriers. This was another missed opportunity for Stroll to at least finish in the top-6 which would have given him a minimum of another 8 points.
Where did it go wrong for Stroll?
Lance withdrew from the Eifel GP on the Saturday morning due to illness which ultimately turned out to be COVID-19. He completed a period of self-isolation and everything seemed to be back on track as he returned in Portugal two weeks later. In the lead up to this race, Stroll stated "I feel in great shape and I can't wait to be back with the team and to race in Portugal." Although, Stroll's positively did not translate into performance on track with two incidents that weekend. He first had an unnecessary collision with Max Verstappen during the second Friday free practice session. While in the race, he made contact with Lando Norris after attempting to overtake the Briton around the outside, but cut across Norris too aggressively as they approached the first corner, costing them both any chance of points.
At the most recent round in Imola, Stroll again failed to the Q3 shoot-out as he qualified P12. His weekend did not improve as he was involved in a first-lap incident with Esteban Ocon which damaged his front wing. Unfortunately, his afternoon went from bad to worse as he entered his pit box too quickly which knocked over his front jack man, who fortunately did not sustain any injuries. He eventually came across the line in 13th, again without scoring any points.
Lance Stroll is now sits 11th in the driver's championship, having not scored any points since the Italian GP.
All is not lost for Stroll
Lance Stroll has proven many people wrong this season with his on-track performances prior to testing positive for COVID-19. However, you are only as good as your last race in F1 which was P13 for Stroll. The Canadian is more than capable of rediscovering his early season form which found himself as effectively 'best of the rest' behind Mercedes and Verstappen after Monza. It is clear that Stroll has not looked himself on track since returning to F1- he has lost his confidence, and is perhaps making mistakes out of despiration. The heavy crash that he sustained in Mugello may also be contributing to Stroll's lacklustre performances.
Lance will recover and fight at the front again, he just needs some time. Although, time is not on the side of Racing Point who are embroiled in the battle for 3rd in the constructors' standings with just 4 races to go including this weekend's Turkish GP.
Stroll will always face intense scrutiny from the media and fans due to his father Lawrence Stroll assisting his son in breaking into Formula 1. However, Stroll is not the only driver who has benefitted from having financial backing. There have been many 'pay drivers' in the past, and it will continue into the future. The reality is, Stroll has shown this season that he has what it takes to cut it in the world of F1. Let's also not forget that he is a proven race winner. He won three consecutive titles in the junior formula from 2014-2016 prior to making his debut for Williams in 2017.