A STROLL IN THE PARK BEFORE THE STORM

While excitement grew around the destination of this year’s F1® drivers’ title, one of the most intriguing additions to F1® for 2017 was seen in the Yas Marina Circuit paddock on Friday when Canadian Lance Stroll met some of the media he will confront in his debut year with Williams.

Stroll, has won titles in F4 and in European F3 but, like current sensation Max Verstappen, the 18-year-old has polarized F1® opinion already: is he just the son of a rich father who has helped him climb the ladder, or is he a genuine talent who deserves his place at motor sport’s top table?

Williams Deputy CEO Claire Williams has no doubt, as she showed in the Friday press conference of team personalities at the track.

 ‘He’s absolutely got the talent, we feel,” she insisted. ‘As with any rookie when they come into Formula One you’ve got to give them a bit of slack in the beginning but we are going to have high expectations of him next year, but anyone that has met Lance knows and understands that he deserves that promotion into Formula One.

‘He’s extremely intelligent, he’s a very quick learner, he’s incredibly charming and I think he’s going to be a great addition to the paddock next year.’

Next day Stroll fielded a barrage of questions with aplomb. F1®? ‘It’s another step, it’s just another car with four wheels. There’s always some things to learn: every new step feels like the biggest step you’ve done in your life.

‘Maybe there’s more cameras, maybe there’s more people, but I just see it as another racing series with other drivers with race helmets on their heads, and other teams competing to win races.’

Stroll has missed out what some insiders see as an important step, GP2, by graduating from F3 straight to F1®. No problem: ‘F3 teaches you how to deliver 100% out of a car,’ he stressed, ‘it’s a great car to learn in. We’re taking it year by year: in 2016 F3 was the goal, we delivered it, and we delivered it by a big margin. But there’s nothing that prepares you for F1® other than doing the 21 races in a Formula 1® car.’

Acknowledging the help that his father has given him, Stroll insisted he is his own man: ‘It’s really my choice to do what I’m doing. We obviously share a passion, we’re big motor sport fans, we love racing and that’s the reason we’re here.

‘Money can’t buy wins: it can buy the opportunity, but if you don’t have those 40 Super Licence points you can’t get into F1® and I’ve got them. I worked really hard and I went to win those championships and without that I wouldn’t be here today.’

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