Lance Stroll, Prema, European Formula Three, Hockenheimring, 2016

F1 or GP2 in 2017? Stroll should take his own advice

2017 F1 season

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Lance Stroll is expected to be confirmed in the coming weeks as Formula One’s newest driver for the 2017 season, filling the gap left by Felipe Massa at Williams.

Stroll is nine days away from his 18th birthday. He’ll be celebrating more than just a milestone ago a week on Saturday, as the FIA has in its wisdom set this arbitrary threshold as the final box he needs to tick in order to qualify for a Formula One superlicence.

The hard part of the job is already done. Stroll has racked up in excess of the 40 superlicence points he needs by winning the Italian Formula Four championship in 2014 and following it up with the European Formula Three crown this year. The latter achievement puts him in very good company: Esteban Ocon won the crown two years ago, beating fellow rookie Max Verstappen.

The latter driver redefined the speed with which young drivers could propel themselves into the top flight of motor racing. Verstappen’s arrival in F1 after just a single season of racing prompted the FIA to introduce its heavy-handed new licensing system.

But even though Stroll has met all the criteria required of him to make an F1 debut, there are good reasons why he should consider postponing it.

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Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Pirelli 2017 tyre test, Circuit de Catalunya, 2016
Next year’s cars will be much harder to drive
The 2017 season could be the toughest year for young drivers we have seen for a long time. The relaxation of the aerodynamic regulations has let F1 designers off the leash, and huge gains in car performance are being touted for next season.

The physical demands of driving a Formula One car compared to a junior single-seater had shrunk in recent years owing to the lessened aerodynamic performance high-degradation tyres. That is going to change next year with bigger wings and wider tyres.

Stroll will gain some experience of current generation F1 cars through his planned private test runs with Williams. But while Verstappen has shown drivers can could successfully jump from F3 to current F1 cars, Stroll may be about to leap from the same starting point only to discover the target has moved much further away.

Thanks to the backing of his wealthy father, who has invested in junior team Prema, Stoll has been able to pick and choose an ideal path through the junior formulae. After winning in Italian F4 he graduated to F3, enjoyed a schooling year in 2015 before taking the title in style. An opportunity exists for him to advance a leave and remain in the Prema fold instead of making a hasty debut in F1.

The Italian squad expanded into GP2 this year and, having hired technical director Guillaume Capietto from multiple champions ART, have already clinched the teams’ title in their debut season. It spoke volumes that Red Bull decided to place junior driver Pierre Gasly with the newcomers, and either he or team mate Antonio Giovinazzi are likely to win the drivers’ championship at next month’s finale.

Antonio Giovinazzi, Prema, GP2, Sepang
Prema have enjoyed instant success in GP2
For Stroll, a year or two refining his craft in GP2, side-by-side with F1 test appearances and practice outings to get used to the new machinery, would surely make more sense than rushing into F1 before he is ready.

“It’s important to complete every step properly and not take any shortcuts,” he said earlier this year. “You see so many drivers who go into F1 too soon, make mistakes. And you really only have one shot in Formula One.”

Stroll should take his own advice. He has the rare luxury offered by his father’s wealth. Even if he has a couple of indifferent seasons in GP2 he is not going to find it difficult to gain a place in F1 in the near future with so many teams crying out for investment.

Will he? The temptation to claim his place in F1 as the reigning F3 champion will be strong. Failing to deliver a title in GP2 could take the shine off that achievement. And Stroll’s decision not to go up against the cream of F3 talent at next month’s Macau Grand Prix suggests that cultivating his reputation is the priority at the moment.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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55 comments on “F1 or GP2 in 2017? Stroll should take his own advice”

  1. Completely and utterly agree.

  2. Whilst I completely agree, the trouble is that it is possible there will be no vacancies at Williams next year, and from Stroll’s perspective that is probably the bigger risk.

      1. @asanator @lolzerbob Maybe Williams isn’t the best bet for the future? They’re slipping down the order at the moment and I don’t see that changing as the rules tilt the balance in favour of aerodynamic development.

        1. @keithcollantine I recently heard that Mika Salo said that Stroll had bought half of the Williams team, but Joe Saward says this isn’t true. If Stroll buys the team, they will have much more resources and could be back at the top

          1. @lolzerbob Now that’s an interesting idea!

    1. 100% agree with @asanator, I think he should do a GP2 campaign to hone his craft even further but if there is no seat available then there is no point. While he may not do well in his debut season, if he really works hard it won’t matter. I’m sure his father will put some backing into Williams to ensure a 2 or 3 year seat.

      Williams is a good fit, he won’t be expected to challenge for podiums in their current state so all he has to do is try to score 50% of VBs points and race cleanly.

  3. You are absolutely spot on here @keithcollantine . I do feel that there are some other drivers floating around who are certainly more ready to jump into a F1 seat next year. However, if rumours are to be believed, Prema could well be fielding a (rather tasty) line-up of GP3 frontrunners Charles Leclerc and Antonio Fuoco next year.

    1. Leclerc is the biggest talent outside of F1. Can’t wait to see him shine.

      1. …. now that Verstappen, Vandoorne and Ocon are in F1. ;)

        1. Yes. But even so, that’s a group of phenomenal talents.

      2. Leclerc has talent, no doubt, but is he a future world champion? F3 was sensational how he started the year, but he faded away into the midfield and wasn’t on the podium for the final 14 races. In GP3, he hasn’t blown away the championship like I expected him too considering the amount of rookies the year. And in FP1’s with Haas, he has been consistently eight tenths slower than Grosjean. @hahostolze

        1. @lolzerbob All valid reservations, but he did drive a VAR last season, compared to his opponents in stronger cars, and this season he’s also been the victim of some bad luck, some flash mistakes, and a very strong GP3 field. He’ll still be champion, like Ocon, and in a more decisive fashion than Ocon. I have faith.

        2. @lolzerbob – I must disagree. His F3 tail-off aside, Leclerc is showing all the signs of future stardom. Versus the most obvious point of reference, Ocon, he has had a much more convincing GP3 campaign. Ocon spent the 2015 season quite significantly tailing behind the raw pace of the rather enigmatic Luca Ghiotto, and only took the title on meticulous consistency, whereas Leclerc has been a regular pole-sitter in a more impressive field of talent. He has lost wins and points through championship conservatism and some quite absurd internecine contact, but in amongst that I have seen a gutsy racer (see his recovery moves in Race 1 in Malaysia), a mature head and a truly world class turn of speed. I must confess to being truly confused by Haas’ decision to retain Esteban “meh” Gutierrez is his stead.

          1. @william-brierty While I 100% agree on Leclerc, I must ask: was there already a decision on Gutierrez? I heard rumors of Haas retaining him but never more than that

          2. @montreal95 Yes, I am jumping the gun on that one. Paddock rumour has suggested for a while that Haas were unenthusiastic about retaining him, and it’s not like they are a team reliant on his Telmex pesos, and the ill-advised and short-sighted remark from Steiner in Sepang about not wanting a rookie still gives them good scope for replacing Esteban. Magnussen would be a good option, so would Kvyat if he doesn’t get the Force India drive, and Nasr is desperate to jump ship from Sauber. Unfortunately it’s looking like Wehrlein is staying at Manor given that he’s being systematically overlooked by Force India and Renault in favour of Ocon.

          3. @william-brierty Sorry for late reply was on holiday this weekend. In the meantime Kvyat has resigned for Toro Rosso. Maybe that makes Gasly available too? Anyway, any of the drivers mentioned above, would be a more inspired choice than retaining Gutierrez

          4. Kvyat has re-signed for Toro Rosso, not “resigned”. Still don’t know how to correct replies after all this time

          5. @montreal95 Whilst the weekend only consisted of one concrete announcement, good old paddock rumour now means we have a much clearer idea of what the grid will look like next year. Bottas and Stroll are at Williams, Nasr is going to Force India, Ocon to Renault and Gutierrez’s seat is looking ever more shaky. Ocon is the linchpin though: if Mercedes don’t feel inclined to loose him to Renault and place him at Force India instead, then that opens the door for Magnussen to stay. We could also see Nasr and Gutierrez do a like-for-like swap. If Haas do drop Gutierrez then I would be fairly confident of seeing him re-sign for Sauber with all those pesos…

            …Palmer is as good as gone, Wehrlein is being linked with nothing other than Manor, Gasly’s options are limited (unless Red Bull fancy forking out for a Manor seat) and Magnussen could yet end up at Renault, Haas or IndyCar! Probably one of the most fluid silly seasons of recent years!

          6. @william-brierty Indeed. Very fluid. Some potential moves, I like. Others do not. I’m fine with Palmer being gone. Nothing against him, he can have a long professional career ahead of him. Just not on F1 level. Same goes for Gutierrez, I hope he’s gone too(better for Sauber to re-sign Nasr if he’s available than go back to Guti, although with their current management’s decision making, nothing would surprise me)

            Stroll, yeah, he’d be better off with a season of GP2, but I can’t blame him for taking the opportunity. Magnussen deserves another opportunity IMO, but so did many others in history who didn’t even get a second chance like he did. If Merc promote Ocon, yet leave Wehrlein at Manor that would be unfair to PW who did a good job I feel this year. Finally I hope Gasly doesn’t end up being another Da Costa, and gets at least 1 chance at F1

      3. @hahostolze Biggest talent in F3 surely. If GP2 is included, I’d rather put my money on Giovinazzi :)

  4. I’d slot in Felix Rosenqvist, the 2015 F3 champ, after watching him in DTM and all sorts of racing series this year. Indy Lights, DTM, Formula E, Blancpain GT Series and other GT series. He’s capable in a variety of cars and I think he would be great in F1.

  5. @keithcollantine In an interview with Canadian TV, Lance stroll’s billionaire father confirmed that he would be driving in F1 next year but refused to reveal which team. I think he’s all but confirmed now, and I’m very happy because he has shown promise in F3 and I feel has the talent and resources to make it far in F1

      1. @lolzerbob The original article was in the round-up at the time:

        http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2016/10/18/f1-fanatic-round-up-1810-4/

        But of course there’s still time to change things and the extent of the changes for next year are only just beginning to become clear. And “in F1” could always be retrospectively re-interpreted to mean having a test and practice deal.

        But as I say, I doubt it will.

  6. Stroll is talented and priviliged. He will make F1 no matter what. But he’s too young for the 2017 cars I think. Even Sainz and Verstappen have sounded notes of caution about the physical development they will have to go through this winter to be ready for 2017 and they both have two years worth of experience and strengthening. All my other problems with Stroll are subjective, and are of no importance in this debate, but I really do wonder if he is ready for this step. I have a feeling he may well struggle immensly during the first half of the season, and at what cost to Williams (ie, points vs money)

    1. RossoTorro (@)
      20th October 2016, 13:42

      Agree with you, if there were no changes for next year I would not doubt he do well but with these upcoming changes it will even be a challange for the younger guys with a season or two under their belt.

    2. I wonder if drivers like Verstappen and Gutierrez -if he continues in F1 next year- will have to put some muscle for 2017, they are too thin, and how that will affect them.

    3. Weren’t Button and Nico Rosberg too young as well? And they had to drive their Williams hard, while Stroll will still get a nagging voice in his ear (maybe a familiar one with a Middlesbrough accent) telling him to look after his wider tyres, save fuel and cool something else.

  7. If you have a chance at f1, you take it. Simple. Then you find out if it was the right choice.

    1. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
      20th October 2016, 16:14

      Agree. And the younger you are arguably the fitter you can be for these supposedly physically demanding cars.

  8. Stroll has cash, a good junior pedigree and there is a free seat at his preferred team. If you look at it from his side, itb would seem that moving into is completely logical at this stage.

    However, I’m sure I am not the only one who has reservations about him making the step up to F1 so soon. I didn’t have these reservations when Verstappen made the jump because it was obvious he was such a precocious talent. Stroll on the other hand is good, you don’t with Euro F3 without being good, but he has had the money to tip the odds in his favour in the junior categories. He will not be able to do that in F1.

    I’m sure he will make the jump next season, and good luck to him too, but I think that while his money has made his path to F1 quite straightforward, it will not be enough to keep him in F1 for more than 3 seasons (i.e. the amount of time it took Williams to lose patience with Maldonado) unless he seriously ups his game.

    1. Verstappen had the odds in his favour as well, rich ex F1 driver father and Red Bull backing. Hamilton was bankrolled by McLaren from the age of 12? Red Bull and Mclaren should also know more about racing than Strolls father so they had the same if not larger advantages to shine.

      On the potential speed of next years cars? No way is that a reason to be cautious, at this level you take any chances you get, the only active drivers in F1 next year from a comparable speed era are Alonso and Raikkonen in 2005.

      Button, Raikknonen and Verstappen have made similar jumps in the past and 2 of them had not won a junior car title?

  9. So I have a question. How does F1 (and motorsport in general) develop the best talent regardless of money?

    There are 7.4B people in the world and while I expect Stroll is very good, I doubt that given the chance to all people, he is one of the best 22 drivers in the world out of the 7.4B people. I’m just an average dude with average means. I do get sick of trying to support rich kids with powerful dads. I can’t think of any driver who has come into F1 in the last 10-20 years that has come into F1 on talent alone. It’s all about money and connections now. A rich club for very rich men and their sons. It’s a club that no normal person can ever hope to join. Heck, I earn good money, but my kids could be awesome and would likely never make it out of karts.

    Surely there should be programs set up by teams that find the best talents, not just the best talent with the best backing. They will be faster and you can pay them less!

    Sorry, I am a little cynical about this matter. It just seems that being good isn’t enough any more and hasn’t been for a long time. You need to have money and/or know people.

    1. @mickharrold You’ve pretty much nailed what the reality is today, and not just today but for the last number of years as you point out. Pay drivers have been around for decades, but what is newer is lesser teams having no choice to go that route, whereas is the past there was a choice. You’re talking about wealth, and nepotism, and those are hard to combat if you don’t have either on your side. And absolutely with so few seats available, just getting out of karting is like winning a lottery. But that is the same with most sports these days. Hockey being so huge here in Canada has never been so expensive for parents to keep their kids in it, and getting to the pros carries extremely slim odds.

      I don’t know if anything will reverse this trend but I don’t see it as impossible either. If F1 becomes harder to do as a driver, needing more experience and training, as they are now leaning toward with the 2017 cars, then that might stave off some who have money but not quite the talent anymore for the new cars.

      And if F1 got it’s act together with money distribution, and/or the global economy would pick up and more businesses would go back to advertising via F1, perhaps teams could afford drivers more, rather than needing drivers with big chequebooks just to keep the doors open.

      I remain steadfast that wherever possible it is a far better investment to hire the best drivers available as that will speed up progression of the team through the driver’s feedback. What good is a big chequebook if the driver that wields it can’t help focus the team in the right direction and grow it, and even worse is damaging the equipment and causing setbacks moreso than is necessary?

      1. I agree, It is annoying. I am not saying a few of these guys don’t deserve to be there.

        But what I want to make sure everyone understands is that they are all pay drivers to some extent. No-one gets to F1 without a rich daddy, a rich backer, or a rich and well connected daddy with a rich backer. Right now, I can’t think of an exception to this in the last 20 odd years. I am sure I am wrong, but there aren’t many and there are levels of rich.

        Take Max Verstappen for example. He deserves to be in F1. I have no doubt about that. But he got there at 17 and he did it because of money and connections. I bet there were thousands of other kids as talented at him who will never get the chance to prove it. I am not having a go at Max. He deserves his spot, but it was always rigged in his favour.

        1. @mickharrold Agreed. It’s true that everything in life has gotten more expensive (hence my hockey analogy) and absolutely even to take your kid karting and then try to get him/her to the next level is formidable. You are absolutely right it takes more money and more luck than ever. Perhaps this has been a natural progression from the fact that there are more millionaires in the world than ever, meaning from a general outlook that there are more parents out there willing to throw big bucks at karting for the best equipment and thus the best chance for their kid(s) such that even karting has become a money contest not unlike F1 itself. And for sure nothing will ever stop the Max’s of the world, whose Dad was in F1, from being at the top of the totem pole. I grew up in a mining town and all the best paying summer jobs went to the high school kids whose parent(s) worked there.

        2. Max got there because of money? I think that you’ve got to be thinking of another driver. Connections, sure. But money? How?

          1. I’ll assume what Mick means is that Max’s Dad, being a former F1 racer, not only is ultra-connected, but most likely easily afforded all the best karting equipment, racing schools etc etc, whatever it took. Money can even buy a kid a private tutor so that he/she can get schooling during times tailored around karting practices and races. Nobody here is suggesting Jos bought his son a ride, and I don’t know the specifics of Max’s upbringing, but nonetheless he likely had advantages second to none compared to most aspiring racers.

    2. If you go with ’10-20 years’ I have to disagree really @mickharrold, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Vettel, and even Button and Alonso got into F1 with their talent – to keep it with the last 5 champions of the sport alone. Sure they had sponsor support as they came into F1, but that was due to proven talent, not the other way around.

      Looking at the ‘lower’ tiers, Ricciardo, Massa too got sponsors due to talent; as did Webber, even Hulkenberg, Perez, Bianci (sigh), Kubica (hm), Ocon and Wehrlein. And as @robbie mentions, most drivers that have a father who was an F1 driver, Rosberg, Verstappen, Magnussen are there because like their fathers they have the speed for it – young Hill isn’t on a path to F1, Mick Schumacher not much either, Brundle jrs aren’t, etc. even though they are clearly good at motorsport. Palmer, well, let’s see. But if that is all …

      1. Perez, although a good driver, is another case of connections/money. His father was manager of Mexican driver Adrian Fernandez when Slim started to get involved in motor racing, he always kept close contact whit them and both his sons’ careers have been supported and tailored by Fernandez/Slim since they were kids.

  10. I disagree. A year in Formula One is better experience than a year in GP2. For someone else not rushing to Formula One could make sense – if they flop, their Formula One career could be over. But this is Stroll. Even if he doesn’t deliver on his first or second season (or ever), his father will guarantee that he’ll have a seat.

    1. @hotbottoms That’s a good point too.

    2. @hotbottoms Except if he keeps flopping, he may lose his chance at a decent seat, and whilst his father may be able to buy him paydriver seats, surely he wants more than that.

  11. I think Stroll will be destroyed by Bottas unless he’s Senna material which no one believe he is. He’s just a good Daddy’s boy with some talent. There’s nothing in his curriculum pointing to anything exceptional. I give him 2 years in F1. And I think he will reveal himself as one of the big F1 catastrophe along with Maldonado and Piquet jr.

  12. Motorsport.com already saying Leclerc and Fuoco are heading to Prema for the 2017 GP2 season. Sure he’s had dad’s money, even read a rumour that Lawrence Stroll, after acquiring shares in Prema also had paid Williams engineers to work on his sons Prema F3 car. However, the guy has delivered you can’t deny that. 14 wins in 30 races. There has been many times where guys have had the car and not delivered. So at least give him that.

    Agree with the article to a degree, he probably should go to GP2, however in my opinion I can see the why he wouldn’t want too either. Many high profile names have had their careers stall in GP2. Alex Lynn, Raffaele Marciello, Mitch Evans to name a few recent examples. On top of this, even if you do win the GP2 championship down the line in your 3rd or 4th year of the series, you are not considered to be a top talent anyways (Palmer, Pantano, Leimer, Valsecchi). Not to mention if he spends a year in GP2, does so so, decides on another year in GP2 for 2018, before you know it the next Verstappen or Ocon is coming up the ranks and you are a forgotten man.

    So if I’m Lance and I have a shot to get into F1 right now, I think its an easy decision. Dive in. Don’t let a chance slip by. Surround yourself with good people and stay focused on what’s at task. His dad is also an ace in his pocket. Loads of money to have more than a years shot at it. That has to be calming to know that he has some time to develop his craft.

  13. Sometimes regulation has the opposite effect to that which was intended.

    I do wonder if the revised super licence rules haven’t led to a number of young drivers saying “well, if I’ve turned 18 and have my 40 points, I should be in F1 now” when they otherwise might have been more patient.

    I’m sure that one thing that weighs on Lance’s mind is that if he has a couple of bad years in GP2, he may no longer have his 40 points and his chance may have passed.

    1. Good point

  14. Absolutely Stroll should race in GP2. Not everyone is Max Verstappen, and Lance certainly isn’t given that he was the face of a driving standards crack-down in F3 last year. An enormous crash in Monza, due to what was either a deliberate chop or a spectacular lack of spatial awareness, earned him a disqualification and certainly would have resulted in injury or death had it taken place at F1 speeds. He has learnt from it and has had no such issues this year, but it just shows that no young driver (other than Verstappen, maybe) can be the finished article from the outset.

    And we also forget that by skipping GP2, Stroll is skipping a key developmental stage in his career. The first time a driver steps over the side of a high-powered formula car (either a GP2 car or a F3.5 V8 car) a new and essential skill comes racing to the surface: throttle control. Esteban Gutierrez was dubbed “the chosen one” whilst racing in more underpowered formula, but his career spectacularly flat-lined on arrival to GP2, and has been little more than a supporting cast member in F1.

    One season of F3 is not enough to make a star. At very least he should receive a dispassionate appraisal based on actual F1 testing mileage, and Williams should also not let a fair few million reasons blind them to the virtues of the young, fast duo racing at Manor.

  15. Well…. He is what 17? And next year cars will be faster…

    Will he blow away Valteri Bottas? Bottas might not be top team material, but any future champion would want to beat him on consistent basis.

    If he is not on that level, he should drive GP2. But maybe poor gp2 stint reduces him to pay driver options only.

  16. Even Max Verstappen, talented as he is, needed a second chance earlier this year after falling out with Toro Rosso, and was lucky he was with an organisation with two teams in F1. If Lance signs as a race driver with Williams, he will not be so fortunate. Better that he let Alex Lynn, who is rather better-prepared, take the 2017 seat, accept Alex’s place in Williams as the development driver, and remember that if he does well there and/or in GP2, Williams is not the only place where he would be able to go. Yes, there’s a risk that other drivers will leapfrog him into F1. But 2017 is going to be a tough year for Alex Lynn to debut, let alone Lance Stroll (who may possibly be more talented, but has less of the experience he’d need to make use of it in this milieu).

  17. All the drivers will need to get used to next year’s huge downforce increase and non-degrading tyres. It might be the best opportunity for Lance to join on something like a level playing field. He might even be better off than the incumbents by not having too much muscle memory with the previous generation cars. Something like how in his early days with Red Bull Seb was able to learn and adapt to the exhaust blowing while it always felt perverse to Mark. Old dogs and all that.

    1. @Bernie I think is something to what you are saying. How much ‘advantage’ I’m not sure, nor for how long, but…

  18. Poorly written article; you left out a lot of words/letters. “spellcheck” can only get you so far. Otherwise: yes, he should drop out. No talent, no teamwork. Just a kid trying to look good.

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