Pressure building on Stroll as Monaco looms
The pressure is building on 18-year-old Formula One rookie Lance Stroll, even if the Canadian continues to sound positive, and Monaco next week is likely to be his toughest race yet.
With five races done, a quarter of the season, the youngest driver on the grid has yet to score a point for his Williams team.
Monaco, with the wider 2017 cars hurtling ever faster around the narrow and twisty streets, will be a challenge even for the most experienced drivers.
“I think Monaco will be tricky for everybody and for Lance it will be maybe one of the most difficult tracks for him because he doesn’t know the track,” Brazilian team-mate Felipe Massa said.
Williams did not expect the billionaire’s son to light up the sport immediately, although Max Verstappen set a benchmark when he came in at 17 with Toro Rosso, and the Canadian’s retirements have not been all of his own making.
On his debut in Australia he started last after a penalty for a gearbox change and was halted by brake failure in the race.
In China he qualified 10th but made contact with Force India’s Sergio Perez on the opening lap and spun off.
Bahrain saw a lap 12 collision with Spaniard Carlos Sainz, who was handed a penalty, while Russia finally brought an 11th place finish after an early spin. Spain ended in 16th place after qualifying 18th.
“One of the very difficult things for Lance is the enormous pressure placed upon him,” Williams technical head Paddy Lowe said.
“He’s a driver with a lot of expectation around him from not just people close to him but even more across the paddock, I think, because there’s a lot of spotlight on how he got here and ‘does he really deserve the drive?’ and all those things.
“Racing drivers are by their natures super-competitive, they are the best and the worst at beating themselves up if they don’t think they are performing as they should. So that cascades and creates its own pressure for him.
“There are no easy answers to how do you undo that pressure.”
Stroll, the first Canadian F1 racer since 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, won last year’s European F3 championship.
He recognised when he was announced as a Williams driver in November that there would be questions about the level of support he has had from wealthy father Lawrence, who made a fortune from the Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors fashion brands.
“I don’t want to say exactly when I’ll be able to show everyone that I’m not just here for money because that depends on so many other things and details coming into place,” he said then.
“But I’m just going to worry about my business.”
Looking ahead to Monaco, he was staying positive.
“It’s going to be very challenging, for sure. Realistically, it’s going to be tough.
“I hope it changes, but our car’s also not been amazing there in the past,” he said.
“But you never know. You’ve got to always be positive and it’s kind of one of those races where whatever happens, happens.”