Saturday 16 December 2017

Home comforts help Stroll's growing pains


Williams' Lance Stroll in action during the first free practice session. Photo: Reuters/Chris Wattie
Williams' Lance Stroll in action during the first free practice session. Photo: Reuters/Chris Wattie

Oliver Brown

Lance Stroll returned this week to the place where it all began, a karting track in back-country Quebec, wrestling with about the only machines he could use until he passed his driving test. For a few hours he had a smile as wide as Montreal's St Lawrence River, the growing pains of his debut Formula One campaign forgotten as the teenager savoured a few home comforts.

Little is expected of the local boy in tomorrow's Canadian Grand Prix, given his failure to secure a point for Williams in his first six races, but his mere presence at 18 in the highest echelon of motorsport offers a compelling parable on the blurred lines between talent and wealth.

Few dispute that Stroll is a gifted young driver: he is a European Formula Three champion and finds himself plunged into F1 at an age when his peers' best hope of experiencing such a rush is on a PlayStation.

While Max Verstappen, who joined Toro Rosso at 17, set a fresh standard for precocity, Stroll's improbable youth was reflected in the fact that Williams could not announce his arrival until his 18th birthday, due to their sponsorship by alcohol brand Martini.

The sticking point is that Stroll's warp-speed journey has been cushioned by the £1.8 billion fortune of his father Lawrence, a fashion entrepreneur and among the richest men in Canada, courtesy of his investment in Tommy Hilfiger and Michael Kors. Stroll Snr, an avid accumulator of Ferraris, wasted little time in securing for his son the most gilded path money could buy.

One account has it that he appointed Luca Baldisserri, of Ferrari, to supervise Lance's rise, putting together a globe-girdling testing programme in a 2014 Williams, where he had access to an entourage of 20, as well as five engineers and two engines specially configured by Mercedes.

Stroll sighed when asked about perceptions that he was here purely because of family money. "Never heard that question before," he said, sarcastically. "Drivers can't just buy their way into F1, you have to go out and get the results. There are always going to be haters, there's always going to be jealousy.

"When you win, it's expected, and when you lose, people knock you down. But I don't focus on that. I know who is important around me, and those are the people I listen to - the rest is just noise." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Canadian Grand Prix, live, Sky Sports F1, tomorrow, 7.0

Irish Independent

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