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Canada's Lance Stroll unfazed by his F1 detractors: 'I do my talking on the track'

MONTREAL — Lance Stroll hears the criticism, but he says he pays it no mind.
Aston Martin Formula One driver Lance Stroll, from Canada, speaks to the media after the filming of a Tim Hortons commercial ahead of the Canadian Grand Prix, in Montreal, Wednesday, June 5, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

MONTREAL — Lance Stroll hears the criticism, but he says he pays it no mind.

The Canadian’s legitimacy as a Formula One driver is sometimes dismissed by pundits and fans because his father, billionaire Lawrence Stroll, is a part-owner of his Aston Martin team.

That’s something he’s used to.

"It's part of it. It's kind of just what my career's been,” Stroll said Wednesday. “I've dealt with that over the years, but I do my talking on the track.”

On the track, Stroll has put forth some impressive showings, including three podium finishes in his eight-year F1 career.

The 25-year-old from Montreal, back in his hometown for this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix, has also finished in the top 10 of the 20-driver grid in four of five races at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

A large part of the criticism in recent seasons comes from the disparity in results between Stroll and his teammate, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso.

Stroll arrives in Montreal ranked 11th in the F1 drivers standings with 11 points. Meanwhile, Alonso is ninth with 33 points.

Their results continue a trend from last season where Alonso heavily outperformed Stroll despite driving the same car. Alonso ranked fourth in 2023 with 206 points to Stroll’s 74, which were good for a career-best 10th-place finish.

Stroll attributes last season’s gap to “unfortunate circumstances,” including an engine failure in Saudi Arabia.

This year, he doesn’t believe points tell the full picture. He highlights that he and Alonso are tied 4-4 head-to-head in qualifying — with Stroll edging his teammate the last three race weekends.

“He's a two-time world champion and people see him as a top driver in Formula One, and it's four-four in quali,” Stroll said. “The points are a little bit deceiving because sometimes one guy can have an engine failure ... that sometimes differentiates the points at the end of the season."

"I look at my last few weekends, and I think they've been strong," he added. “When I look at pace right now, and speed, like I said, 4-4 in quali. People say he's super good and I beat him the last few weekends, so take it as you want."

With his father’s financial backing, Stroll broke into F1 with Williams in 2017 to become the first Canadian on the grid since former world champion Jacques Villeneuve in 2006.

Stroll previously showed his chops as a driver by dominating the Formula 3 European Championship in 2016.

In 2018, Lawrence Stroll led a consortium to buy the Force India Formula One team, which Lance Stroll joined the next season when it was renamed Racing Point. The team was renamed again to Aston Martin in 2021 after Lawrence Stroll led an 182-million pound (C$318 million) investment into the luxury car manufacturer for a 16.7 per cent stake in the company.

Asked if he’d be curious to drive for a team that doesn’t involve his father to prove his doubters wrong, Stroll said “No, not really.”

“We're on a super exciting trajectory and project as Aston Martin,” Stroll said. “I'm much more excited to be part of this journey than just going to another team to say that I could be driving somewhere else.”

Stroll, whose contract status is not known, also said he intends to be an Aston Martin driver next year.

"That's the plan,” he said. “It's the very early days with stuff to be decided for next year, but I'm super committed to being here.”

For now, Stroll’s focus shifts to the Canadian Grand Prix.

On Wednesday, the hometown driver sported a red and white race suit and rolled through a Tim Hortons drive-thru in a restaurant-themed race car for a promotional event. In the evening, he planned to bring his team to Lester’s Deli for the “best smoked meat sandwiches in town."

Stroll remembers watching a dominant Michael Schumacher win races at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and inspire his love for the sport in the early 2000s.

"I just remember going to the track and it was one of my most exciting weekends of the year," he said.

Stroll also earned his first F1 points at his home Grand Prix in 2017, placing ninth. He finished ninth again last year in an Aston Martin car that appeared to be one of the best on the grid.

That’s not the case this year.

“It’s been a tough year, for sure,” Stroll said.

Instead of fighting for second in the constructors’ championship, Aston Martin is well behind Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes this year.

For that reason, Stroll says his dream of a podium finish on home soil will likely have to wait.

“I don't think realistically we're in a position to do that right now,” Stroll said. "Last year we were for sure. This time last year, we had a really quick car. This weekend I think if we score points it's a good weekend for us.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 5, 2024.

Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press