Lance Stroll, Williams, Yas Marina, 2017

2017 F1 driver rankings #17: Stroll

2017 F1 season review

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Lance Stroll flummoxed his doubters in his debut season of Formula One.

He arrived in the sport fresh from a widely-predicted European Formula Three championship win against a depleted field. His billionaire father paid for Williams to take him testing around the world at some of the venues which were new to him. He pranged the new Williams once too often in testing, evoking memories of his major F3 crashes in 2015.

Lance Stroll

Beat team mate in qualifying3/20
Beat team mate in race4/13
Races finished16/20
Laps spent ahead of team mate356/946
Qualifying margin+0.63
Points40

Few, therefore, would have expected Stroll to achieve Williams’s best race and qualifying performances of 2017. Nor would they have predicted that he would have been responsible for just one of his race-ending retirements during the year, when he hit Sergio Perez in China.

Of course Stroll’s third place in Azerbaijan was aided by several retirements. Not least that of his team mate Felipe Massa, whose suspension failed while running ahead of him. But Stroll kept out of trouble on a day when many others failed to, and it was the only time any driver not in a Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull finished on the podium.

Stroll was also the only driver not in a Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull to start from the front row of the grid. And if he’d been lucky in Baku, his performance in a rain-hit qualifying session at Monza owed more to skill. Granted, he was promoted ahead of both Red Bull drivers due to penalties. But in dire conditions he beat both Ferrari drivers and Valtteri Bottas on merit.

These results hint at a driver who has potential. But they were outliers in an otherwise very poor season. For the most part Stroll lagged behind a team mate who, in fairness to Massa, is well past his best, and wouldn’t have been racing this year had circumstances not brought him back.

Against this very soft benchmark, Stroll came out ahead just twice in qualifying all year (and once more when Paul di Resta stood in for an unwell Massa). On average he was seven-tenths of a second lower on Saturdays, and that’s not the worst part. The most troubling fact of Stroll’s performance in qualifying was the lack of progress he showed as the season went on. While other rookies made measurable progress, Stroll averaged 1.1 seconds slower than Massa over the last five races.

His race performances were better, as they had to be. His quickly toned down the alarmingly ragged style which was evident at the season opener and saw the chequered flag for the first time at round four. He picked up points by staying out of trouble in Canada, much as he did with his podium at the next race. He managed a total of nine points finishes, though he usually lagged behind Massa.

Stroll looked more comfortable in wet conditions than his team mate, though this probably says as much about his team mate, who has never been a wet weather ace. Stroll’s late-season slump was exacerbated by having to use an older engine for the last races but that alone does not explain his huge deficit in those races. In Yas Marina he was so far off the pace he ended up treating the race as a test session.

Ranking a wildly inconsistent performance like this, with a few impressive highs and many deep lows, invites many interpretations. The most charitable view is that Stroll is a diamond in the rough which will take a lot of polishing. But there was plenty of ammunition for those who continue to believe he’s well out of his depth.

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Over to you

Had his good moments, of course notably the podium at Baku, and most impressive to me was his qualifying at Monza, where he was spectacular. However, the rest of the season was terrible. He became more consistent over the season, but was still well off the pace of his team mate who we all know is past it. He was fast tracked into F1, and that definitely wasn’t good for him, as he has potential but his image has been tainted by this season.
@Hugh11

What’s your verdict on Lance Stroll’s 2017 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than him? Have your say in the comments.

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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 “2017 F1 driver rankings #17: Stroll”

    1. That performance at Monza is justification enough to put him in front of Ericsson. But he better make some huge gains next season, regardless of his teammate

      1. He finished Monza less than a second in front of his teammate despite starting way ahead of him on the grid.

        There wasn’t a single weekend in the entire year where he got both quali and the race just about right. He was terrible at qualifying in Canada, but had a good raceday. At Baku, he stuffed up qualifying but managed to stay out of trouble and bag a podium.

        I don’t see how Ericsson is ranked lower than him. I think Marcus would have done much better than him overall if he was at Williams.

        1. agreed, i can’t think of a good argument for putting stroll above ericsson, who has rated well (and much better than expected) against werhlein.

        2. I guess then the less corner a circuit has the better he performs. Maybe drag races would suit him! ;)

          1. Jokes aside, he was definitely not ready. I think he’s not even ready yet now. He is a bit more consistent but still so slow. Palmer kept going for 2 years so I guess we’ll see Stroll for at least a year or two irrespective of his performance. He has to improve massively so that it’s not a wasted seat again.

            1. @spoutnik
              Palmer had the bad luck of ending up in a team which didnt need any more money, Stroll can continue to bankroll in Williams well past 2 years if he wants.

        3. He had two standout moments during the year, and a good race at Canada. Can we say the same about Ericsson? I don’t think we can

          1. @johnmilk

            The Sauber was over 1.5 seconds a lap slower than the 2nd slowest car on the grid. They were racing in their own category the whole year.. so you cannot expect Ericsson to stand out as such.

            It’s ridiculous that Stroll’s performance at Baku and Monza are “standout”. I would label them as “fluke” and “above average” at best.

    2. One of the strangest seasons I’ve ever seen, some genuinely great performances, and many more dire ones. Still dislike his father and the manner he has arrived in F1, but at least he has some talent. Williams have really mismanaged their driver line up when next year they have Stroll, Kubica, Di Resta or Sirotkin. I rate all three of the runners, but all of them will basically be starting from zero, and we still don’t really know how 2017 Kubica compares to 2010 Kubica.

      1. @jmc200
        Well whatever they do it cant be worse than Massa and Stroll. The weakest driver lineup in a long time in F1.

    3. Our lists diverge slightly here! I have Stroll swapped with Ericsson but his highs were very high… the less said of his lows the better! So far off Massa in some places, but very close in others. Perhaps the year’s experience will serve him well and we’ll see him higher up the order in 2018. Unfortunately, Williams have now forced his reference point into retirement.

      1. I’ve put Stroll at #18 & Ericsson at #17 as well.

        I think Stroll is a little lucky not to be dead last. His performances at the start of the season were poorer than any F1 driver I’ve ever seen. His performances in Canada, Baku and Monza were the only things that kept him above Palmer and Kvyat for me.

    4. I go with the Diamond that needs Polishing view, so bring in the Polish! ;-)

      1. Lol, nice one :-)

      2. Yes, polishing with lots of elbow grease! He needs to put in a lot of hard work between now and Melbourne if he wants to do well. If he wants to be considered as a potential senior driver (and he might just be), then he is going to have to produce the results expected of such a status. Williams needs good results in 2018. The old saying “practice makes perfect”, or rather, “lots and lots of practice makes perfect” is, for Lance, a prerequisite to getting good race results. Maybe no one has said it at Williams yet, but I don’t think he will finish out next season if he doesn’t produce good results.

        1. Meh, he can bring such an amount of money that williams might keep him no matter what, however I certainly hope you’re right!

    5. I just can’t wrap my head around that Monza qualifying, when compared with the rest of the season.
      Are we sure the Stig didn’t swap seats with him in the murky gloom of the Monza qualifying session?

      1. Or maybe, just maybe, the Williams was the perfect car for the conditions that day? Massa is one of the worst wet drivers so yeah…
        It’s too big of an outlier compared to the rest of his season IMO.

      2. That track was essentially a Russian Roulette of changing conditions. It really doesn’t seem indicative of anything to me.

        1. @hahostolze I disagree completely. This is not luck of the draw single car on track qualifying of 2003-2005. Everybody had the same opportunities as him and he did better. Which proves he has some talent. Was that enough to be an F1 driver in 2017? No. But it’s in there somewhere. Question is, after the mistake of fast-tracking him to F1, can LS learn on the run to harness this talent consistently or not?

    6. I got a shock! I initially thought Stroll got 18th… False alarm!! I completely agree that Ericsson had the worse session.
      I don’t like when people do this but I’m going to do it anyway.. My rankings from here on are as follows:
      Rai, Mag, Van, Gro, Mas, Weh, Hul, Bot, Per, Oco, Ric, Vet, Ham,Ver, Alo, Sai

      No explanation, if you disagree send it to the complaints dept. :)

      1. If only there had been 3 Spanish drivers !

      2. @twentyseven Mate, Sainz had a great season but not greater than Verstappen, Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso. Even Alonso is too high, in my opinion he has to be fifth. Also Raikkonen surely had a better year than the Haas guys and Vandoorne. He should be just above Massa IMO. However, to each his own. It would be interesting if another Spaniard was on track. Would he too be ahead of the world champion, the runnerup, the overachiever and the teenage sensation?

        1. It depends on your criterion. If they are consistancy, ringing the absolute maximum out of the car every race and having no off form race weekends then it’s hard to argue against the two Spaniards. I have no reason to be biased in favour of the Spanish drivers by the way.
          I thought Hamilton had a number of off races and while Vettel was clinical most weekends his temper loss was inexcusable.
          Verstappen was hard to judge this year given all the trouble he got in.

          Actually after submitting I did think I should bump Raikonnen up the list solely because of the Monaco pole and almost race win.

          1. Sainz has been too reckless (and given a grid penalty for it too) this season for anything too high… A case of rose tinted glasses otherwise…

          2. Maybe you should look at Bahrain and Canada again

      3. Now i rate Sainz as high as Verstappen but i wasn’t impressed in the last part of the season. He tried too hard or was too agressive.

        This would be my take on the rating
        Rai, Mag, Van, Gro, Mas, Weh, Hul, Bot, Per, Sai, Oco, Alo, Ric, Ver, Vet, Ham
        Which i note that the places of Hul- Alo was way too close to judge clearly.

      4. @twentyseven Finally Sainz is up against a good driver in a stable team/enviroment so the hyperbole about him can come to an end.

    7. People have heard this before but Stroll came into F1 too early. He should be in F1, say,3 or 4 years from now.

    8. There’s talent in there and for sure he overdrives just now but unless you are RoboMax you are going to make mistakes and I think people are a little harsh because of his dad.

      I was at Monza this year and sat there for 6 hours on Saturday while a river ran past me (and through me actually). Lewis was on a different plane to everyone but to even get a car round without a propeller was miraculous. Overdriving worked that day for him and he will surely learn to reduce his inputs but im hopeful he will end up getting a drive because of his talents not just his bank balance

      1. +1 that was i looking for reducing his inputs ( i notice he is really moving his steering during races (F3-F1))

        Lol Robomax great find :)

    9. So last year Bottas beat Massa 17-4 in qualifying and this year Massa beats Stroll 17-2. As a Williams fan, it makes me sad that this great team is having to resort to drivers of this calibre.

      1. @geemac

        I agree. I remember seeing the first few races of the season and thinking to myself about how a driver of Stroll’s calibre is even on the grid. It felt like a slap in the face of Formula 1, that a billionaire’s son just walked in to the sport, was ridiculously slow and absolutely incapable of racing his peers.

        But then again, I thought about how much money he’s bringing to Williams. It just gives Williams more and resources time to get things right for the future.

        The only thing that really bothers me is the amount of influence the Strolls will have in deciding the 2nd driver in that team. They would obviously want Lance to look good, so they’ll be hoping a driver of Palmer’s pedigree join the team. I would lose a lot of respect for Williams if they don’t find a driver actually worthy of a seat in that team.

      2. Pretty much that @geemac! Let us just hope that they find an inspiring choice for their second driver to get anywhere near the limit of that car next year, but since that would give Stroll and even harder job to do to either improve or somehow talk around being horribly left behind, I am afraid it’s not going to happen.

        Sad to see this team struggle as much.

      3. Apart form not being a Williams fan I totally agree. It’s sad.

    10. I’ll be the one to say it when nobody else will. Stroll’s Monza performance was good, but hardly indicative of anything. It was a wet circuit with constantly changing conditions and varying lines. That he beat several better drivers came down to getting a lap in and getting the right conditions at the right moment. It doesn’t suddenly make him a wet-weather expert or even show signs of underlying potential. It was just a good time and a good moment. And it’s being used as some sort of reason to not consider Stroll dead last, when actually Kvyat’s race performance in Barcelona and Ericsson in Mexico or Baku were more impressive.

      1. Spot on.
        One good result and one good qualifying session does not account for the other 38 race and qualifying sessions where he compared miserably against a driver few would rate in the top half of the field. I don’t think there was a worse performer this year, despite ‘that podium’.

        If his second season is as bad as his first (and the last few races suggest it could be) it will be interesting to watch Williams wrestle between the need for cash and the need for a decent pilot.

    11. While I don’t agree with the way he’s entered the sport, Lance didn’t choose to be born into money and I can’t blame his father either for pumping endless funds into his sons dream. There’s been many pay drivers who and did far less in their junior careers yet got a crack at F1 and I think Stroll has shown that he deserves that crack too.

      However, I recall reading somewhere that he really struggled getting to grips with the car during preseason and I feel like someone more knowledgeable position should’ve suggested to his father that he do a year in F2 instead which would’ve done much more for his development. Although he ended up having some highs, he seemed lost and a bit mentally strained during Brazil and Abu Dhabi and I hope this quick jump to F1 hasn’t killed his confidence. I reckon there’s talent there (probably not on the level of Max and Ocon) but he’s got a very big preseason coming up, and while he’s still young, there’s no more excuses if he doesn’t perform next year.

    12. My analysis of Stroll’s season is that Laurence Stroll’s wire transfers were all posted on time, totaling $40 million, and that Laurence maintained the contractual $100 million of liquid assets in the prescribed escrow-like account at all times, attachable by Williams Grand Prix.

    13. Stroll is another object lesson that fast-tracking a driver to F1 is a mistake in all but the rarest cases with exceptional circumstances(like Verstappen). He has talent but hasn’t learned to harness it properly and consistently because of the rush to get him to F1. Next year is sink or swim for him, he must show significant progress, but can he? Based on past experience of one current driver with exceptional talent level I’d say no. Raikkonen has arrived in F1 straight from Formula Renault and because of his exceptional talent took to it like a fish to water. It’s only a few years later that the problem with his premature promotion revealed itself-his inability to cope with a car that doesn’t suit his driving style. He cannot adapt his style enough to overcome this. A couple more years in F3+F3000 and he would’ve surely learned ways to overcome this problem but when you get to F1 not having learned the necessary skill-set it’s usually too late.

    14. To be fair to both Stroll and Massa, Williams delivered a really poor car again at the start of the year and then followed it’s consistent practice from the past few years of falling behind even further.

      They also seem to be the masters of making bad strategy calls which has also contributed in some races to far worse results than they should have had.

      They seriously need some major change there (hopefully Paddy will bring it). Then we might actually be able to evaluate their drivers properly.

    15. @keithcollantine rewatching the replay of Stroll / Perez in China its difficult to blame Stroll

    16. I can’t agree with this position. A few glimmers of adequate driving don’t put him above the other three drivers.

      Yes they had torrid seasons but Palmer was up against Hulkenberg, Kvyat up against Sainz, and Ericsson in a car that didn’t deserve points on merit. Stroll was embarrassingly behind a driver whose been in a 7 year twilight of his career.

      I’d confidently bet Stroll would finish behind any other driver if they were in the same team.

    17. Stroll is a very rich pay driver, so maybe he can stay in the sport long enough to become a mediocre F1 driver

      I really can’t see him being a top driver

    18. Should’ve been dead last.

      Absolutely nothing ‘flummoxing’ about his result in Baku, or any other result he achieved, for that matter. Which leaves us with a single truly impressive achievement, his qualifying in Monza.
      Ericsson now stands at 4 seasons without leaving a lasting impression, as well as crashing too often, but his season was on an entirely different level than Stroll’s. Similarly, Kvyat and Palmer had horrible seasons, but never quite as catastrophic as Stroll.
      Considering Keith’s ‘love’ for Massa, we’ll end up with both Williams drivers within shouting distance of each other, so basically the same stark misrepresentation of their relative performances as we already had mid-season.
      Those driver rankings are the one thing this otherwise great site should do without.

    19. I do not think we can judge Stroill yet, he’s very young and very rich. Possibly, if he keeps racing, in 3 or 4 years we will be able to know his true quality, if he has it.

    20. Stroll is an absolute joke and a disgrace to both Williams and F1. Bottas is having a rough time proving himself and he crushed Massa which in turn crushed Stroll. Do anyone need to say anything more? If so then look at his calm driving style and the amount of times he crashed into cars comming up from behind, ofc he was blameless all the times….

      The only positive thing i can think of is that he is still very young and therefore theres a chance in a million that he will develop a talent in a few years. He shouldnt be anywhere near an F1 seat with that pedigree however.

      Im not surprised that hes above Ericsson because hes ranked by one that thinks Giovinazzi “almost outqualified” Ericsson but i do wonder how he managed to end up above Palmer. Probably because he was kicked out and replaced by a decent driver.

    21. @rethla

      one that thinks Giovinazzi “almost outqualified” Ericsson

      Well to be fair, that bit is actually true. His gap to Ericsson was tiny (+0.183), and he was several tenths quicker than Ericsson on his final attempt, but ruined his lap with a mistake in the penaultimate corner. And that after jumping into the car for the first time just three hours earlier, on a track he had never visited before, with just 18 laps of free practice to get accustomed.
      So, yes: While he didn’t outqualify Ericsson, he came stunningly close to actually doing it.

      1. It wasnt quicker than the lap Ericsson was on which he also ruined with his crash. Many drivers including Ericsson lost control in that tricky corner but only he planted it in the wall.

        Its not only a few hundreds after Ericsson its also overdriving the car with a sessionending rookie mistake as result.

        Its all good as like you say he just jumped in the car. But going from that to “he almost outqualified Ericsson” is an impressive conclusion.

        1. @rethla

          It wasnt quicker than the lap Ericsson was on which he also ruined with his crash. Many drivers including Ericsson lost control in that tricky corner but only he planted it in the wall.

          See, we’re not even talking about the same lap or even race, for that matter.
          Giovinazzi didn’t crash in Melbourne, he just had a very untidy corner exit, which prompted him to abandon his lap. Consequently, there weren’t any yellow flags and no ‘ruined’ laps for other drivers.

          You seem to come from a different factual basis than I do, which explains why you’d find a rather appropriate description of the events irritating.

    22. Lance was brought into F1 too early, and his entire 2017 suffered for it (I do not believe that he would have lost 2nd in Canada, for example, had he had a complete junior racing career). Thankfully, a combination of money and a will to learn means he’ll probably turn out to be a decent F1 driver (if not better) by the end of his career. He has a lot to learn, I am confident that he will learn it… …and will try not to cringe too much at the sub-standard 2018 I expect before Lance finds his true level in 2019.

      1. * – Canada should, of course, have been Baku (spot the FIF1 fan trying to forget the latter race ever happened…)

    23. One thing I’m sure of: he will be trashed by Sirotkin in 2018.

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