Written by: Louis Dekker (Translation from Dutch by Lo Chi-fung; twitter: @lo_chifung)
(published on the NOS website: nos.nl - nos.nl/artikel/2190008-stroll-is-nog-lang-geen-max-maar-de-tiener-leert-snel.html; date: 27-08-2017)
The stormy entrance of Lance Stroll in Formula 1 is similar to Max Verstappen's debut season.The 18-year-old Canadian is relatively inexperienced, but at the age of 11 he was already drafted for Ferrari's talent pool and 'jumped' from Formula 3 into Formula One. Stroll regards the season, like Verstappen in 2015, as a learning year. On the eve of the Grand Prix of Belgium, the youngest Formula 1 driver makes an Intermediate balance.
Spa Francorchamps is your twelfth grand prix. Does your rookie season comply with your own expectations?
"I can not deny that I had difficulties at season's start but everyone will understand that I need time. In Formula 1 everything is difficult and challenging." These cars are extremely cunning and half of the circuits are new to me. ""I have to make miles, I'm sure my second season will be a lot better, as it was the case in Formula 3. The first year was difficult, in the second year I took the title."
Lance Stroll takes a rest during qualifying for the GP of Spa-Francorchamps AFP
What do you still need to learn?
"Everything is about experience. I need to extract more from myself, developing a deep understanding of the car and get it in my grip. It's annoying that a problem in Formula 1 always involves another problem. For example, if your downforce isn't good, you will not get the tires on temperature and with too cold tires you can't set a fast time. It's getting better and better. A better car would also help - so far - it's a bit disappointing and whimsy.
Lance Stroll's first half of this season was far from spotless. Especially in the first race weekend, the Williams driver made a lot of mistakes. It went already wrong during the winter tests in Spain when he victimized his team by writing off a whole chassis. The then tempted team mate Felipe Massa made a vengeful statement. "I hope Lance now stops crashing, so we can finally make miles."
On particular, your first races gave criticism. Crashes and sliders were undermining your self-confidence. Was the pressure too big?
"I've had a lot of bad luck, but also made mistakes, it's a huge transition. In fact, you'll start over again in Formula 1. The learning curve was steep, but now the pieces are starting to fall into place. The people in the team see that and support me. My third place in Baku helped me. That I scored a podium there was a boost for my self-esteem."
That first podium in Azerbaijan came from nowhere. There you bypassed the chaos and stayed as one of the few out of the wall. The highlight of your career?
"Yes, it was a great weekend, a freaky race and a totally unexpected result. Many things happened there: I think I was as one of the few who finished with an undamaged car. Third place was well deserved. It was a solid race of me and I think I've silenced my critics." An 18-year-old boy on stage in Formula One, that's especially special, right? "
1/2 Lance Stroll celebrates his 3rd position in Azerbaijan AFP
2/2 Lance Stroll (R) drinks - 'Daniel Ricciardo like' (Daniel at the left) - from his shoe after finishing 3rd in Azerbaijan. (The Aussie's 'infamous' - 'shoey'
There are countless articles written about the your father's role, multi-millionaire Lawrence Stroll. Many journalists are convinced that you would never have made it into Formula One without him. Is that irritating?
"Yes, I usually say that I have never had that question before. I realize there will always be people who disavow my success. You have fans and people who dislike you or are jealous. That's inherent in sport."
Do you feel that you have to prove more than other drivers that you deserve your place in Formula 1 based on your talent?
"No, I'm totally not busy defending my existence in Formula 1 at all. I want to spend a minimum words on this as possible. I ignore it. It's just noise for me. I continuously give the same answer."
And that is?
"I'm here because I performed well. I was a champion in Formula 4 and Formula 3 and got my super license. Money is not a miracle that open all doors, and you have to score and I've done that."
Spa-Francorchamps is Flemish Stoffel Vandoorne's home-race and also of Max Verstappen, who has a Belgian mother and grew up nearby. Few people know that you are also half a Belgian ...
"Yes, for fifty percent! My mother (fashion designer Claire-Anne Callens) comes from Brussels and I also have a Belgian passport, but I'm mainly Canadian. I was born and raised in Montreal, Canada is my home race, Spa I do not consider so. I don't have a lot of fans here, not 'having' my own grandstands like Max and Stoffel either."
Lance Stroll in action on the Spa circuit AFP
So you have no special connection with this circuit?
"No, but I love this circuit very much, it's very challenging, and last year I won a Formula 3 race here, so it suits me well. And that legendary steep turn Eau Rouge, you'll never get used to. Thrill, going up the hill."
Max Verstappen is from the same generation. He has a pretty difficult season but realizes that he has at least 15 years to break all records. Do you have the same mindset?
"Poeh ... 15 years! That's long. I must not think about that. If I'm 33, I really do something different than Formula One. What that is ...? No idea. I live the moment and look no further than a year ahead. I try to enjoy every day and not blindly staring at a goal in the distant future."
Do you consider Verstappen as an example?
"No, I do not think so. Of course, his first year was impressive. I see that he has a mega talent, but I'm not comparing myself with him. The road to the top is for everyone different."
What can we expect from you in the remaining races?
"That's hard to say, because almost everything will be new to me. I have to go for circuits I've never have driven before, like Singapore, Japan, Mexico and Brazil. But I'm not worried about it. Azerbaijan and Canada were unknown to me, but I scored points, so it says a little."
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