Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Singapore, 2023

2023 Formula 1 driver rankings #19: Lance Stroll

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If you were a fledgling new Formula 1 fan who did not know any better, it would be easy to fall into the trap of assuming the only reason Lance Stroll is on the grid is because he is the son of Aston Martin’s executive chairman Lawrence Stroll.

It’s easy to overlook the fact the younger Stroll is a Formula 3 champion. One of the youngest drivers ever to line up on the F1 grid, he has multiple appearances on the podium and is already one of the more experienced drivers in the field at the age of just 25 – when many world champions of old were still finding their feet in the highest level of motorsport.

Yet if 2023 was your first full season of following Formula 1, no one could blame you for having serious questions about Stroll’s worthiness for his Aston Martin seat – or even on the grid at all.

Some allowance must be made for the fact Stroll’s season started in the worst possible manner. As he trained ahead of the new campaign, he suffered a hand injury and a broken toe in a nasty cycling accident that caused him to miss the only pre-season test the week before the opening round of the season in Bahrain. While many assumed the time had come for Aston Martin’s reserve and junior driver Felipe Drugovich to get an opportunity to make his grand prix debut, Stroll knew the team had a fast car and was determined not to miss out. Despite a lack of track time in his car and being in a considerable degree of discomfort with his injuries, Stroll put in one of the gutsiest performances of his career to finish sixth – a very respectable result in the circumstances.

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Bahrain, 2023
Stroll impressively returned from injury at the start of the year
But that admirable showing in Sakhir remained potentially his most impressive of the season. For over the bulk of the year, Stroll was simply nowhere in comparison to his new team mate, veteran Fernando Alonso. While the 42-year-old twice world champion was on the podium six times over the opening eight rounds, Stroll peaked with a single fourth place finish in Melbourne – which only then he gained courtesy of Carlos Sainz Jnr’s costly penalty.

There was no mistaking the prowess of the AMR23 over the early rounds but Stroll was continually unable to make the most of it. If he wasn’t being beaten by cars that could not touch his team mate ahead, he was starting to regularly miss out on Q3 – something Alonso never failed to achieve over the first half of the season. Stroll was genuinely unlucky in Monaco to be caught out by debris from Lando Norris’ McLaren in Q2, but when the rain came in the race he looked like a rookie. He slid off the slippery track multiple times and was the only driver to crash out. Again, Alonso finished on the podium.

Stroll managed to finish ahead of Alonso for the first time at his team mate’s home grand prix in Spain after doing a decent job through the weekend and although Aston Martin’s rivals were catching them, At this point he seemed to be finding his rhythm a bit more. But then his performance at the team’s home race at Silverstone was pain sloppy, driving more like a Formula 2 driver than an F1 driver and earning a time penalty for a silly clash with Pierre Gasly, leaving him outside of the points again. He headed into the summer break having crashed out of sprint race qualifying at Spa, but at least he secured points on Sunday.

Lance Stroll

GP start320 (x4)
GP finish417

The second half of the season should have been Stroll’s opportunity to reset and rebound. However, his form only seemed to fall off further as Aston Martin’s performance began to fade. Between the Italian and Mexican rounds, Stroll was eliminated from Q1 six consecutive times. He was becoming increasingly ragged in his pursuit of pace, resulting in a violent accident in qualifying at Singapore which ultimately forced him out of the grand prix. His frustration boiled over in an ugly fashion in Qatar, where he was seen appearing to shove his trainer after climbing out of his car following another disappointing qualifying performance, which earned him an investigation by the FIA’s compliance officer and a formal warning.

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2023
Stroll only contributed a quarter of Aston Martin’s points
By this point in the championship, Stroll sat 136 points behind his team mate as Aston Martin suddenly found themselves under heavy pressure for fourth in the constructors’ championship from McLaren. But Aston Martin simply did not have the pace they once had and there was little Stroll nor Alonso could do to prevent the inevitable. At this point, Stroll finally got his act together. He was decent through the triple-header rounds at Austin, Mexico City and Interlagos, even if Alonso took the team’s final podium in the latter and he recovered from 19th on the grid in Las Vegas to take a very solid fifth place.

As the season ended, Stroll was six places behind his team mate in the championship in tenth – the lowest-placed driver from the top five teams by a wide margin. Removing his points contribution from Aston Martin’s total still left his team comfortably in fifth place, meaning Alonso had effectively got them there single-handedly.

It’s little wonder Aston Martin’s mild-mannered team principal Mike Krack had become noticeably tired of fending off awkward questions about Stroll’s performance over the latter half of the year. But if the son of the team’s part-owner does not show a marked improvement in 2024, those questions are only going to become even more frequent.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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33 comments on “2023 Formula 1 driver rankings #19: Lance Stroll”

  1. Yep, he’s pants.

    1. Pants Stroll.

      1. Yobbo Sonny comment.
        Finish any school?

  2. Its painful to watch a driver of Lance Stroll’s calibre on the grid every season. No pace, no consistency, no race craft, no etiquette, no charisma… and lastly.. no hope of turning in to even a mediocre F1 talent.
    If anyone can get him off the grid, it’s Aston Martin’s investors (other than his dad).

    1. Absolutely this – well said @todfod

  3. I too have to cope with a nepotism baby boy in my company, I feel for the employees of Aston Martin.

  4. Looking down this and being reminded of just how dire Stroll was on several occasions – yeah, he definitely belongs below Perez.

    It’s a stark reminder of how poor Perez was that we even need to think about that. But he wasted the potential of the car in the first half, then floundered in the second… his ‘highs’ were rarer and less impressive than Perez’s, and his ‘lows’ were every bit as bad / arguably worse.

  5. Archibald Bumfluff
    12th December 2023, 13:42

    To play devils advocate.

    He missed winter testing, and probably drove the first part of the season in agony because of his broken wrists.

    You wouldn’t expect him to be on par with Alonso, but he probably should have been better than what we saw. Maybe if he can get in a good head space and gets some good preparation, he’ll be better next year.

    Not on Alonso’s Level but better than what we saw this year.

    1. In the end, even if we give him some credit due to that broken wrist(s?), his ranking is based on what he managed to achieve, which wasn’t great by any means (compare Webber, who managed to get bones broken before the season start a few times; sure we weren’t always aware during the season, but even so, he was rightly considered as failing to live up to what Vettel was able to show in most seasons).

    2. Stroll consistently finishes better than half the grid drivers. If the bottom half of the grid were judged as harshly as Stroll they would all be out of a job.

    3. Yeah, only the devil could be Stroll’s advocate indeed, in the case of Talent vs Stroll.

  6. But if the son of the team’s part-owner does not show a marked improvement in 2024, those questions are only going to become even more frequent.

    And that is the very problem as questions is all Lance faces as a threat.

  7. Lance Stroll is not worse a driver than most people in motorsport. But he’s not good enough for a long F1 career, and pairing him with multiple world champions just makes this look worse. While he could claim some comfort from being statistically close to Vettel in years where the car was just not that great, it was still obvious to everyone watching that Vettel was able to capitalize on moments and score two excellent podiums. Heck, one was even a near win. With a faster car, Alonso just doubled down on that and made Stroll look downright bad on many occasions.

    Lawrence Stroll has commendably led a serious investment into this team, but F1 is also a people’s game. And attracting top talent is going to be increasingly difficult if a team is continually held back by having the boss’ son sitting in one of the cars and showing both no improvement and facing no consequences for his lack of performance. Saying Aston Martin would have been 5th regardless of Stroll’s points is all well and good, but they should not have finished behind McLaren in the first place.

    At some point soon, both Strolls have to accept that there’s no more to Lance than he’s shown, and that’s it time for someone else to have a go. The guy has nothing to be ashamed of; podiums, some good races, a rather odd but consistent proficiency at damp tracks, and a few years racing with some of the legends of the sport. Quite a story for a 25-year-old! As I’ve noted before, plenty of billionaire kids do far less impressive things with their time and privilege than Lance has done. If he wants to continue racing, there are plenty of sportscar teams for whom he’d be an upgrade to their driver line-up.

    1. Think that is pretty much spot on and I also wonder when Lance has had enough – his demeanor and behavior gets worse with each season he is racing in F1 and it makes one wonder if his heart is still in it. Can’t imagine this situation is very helpful in motivating the team or his side of the garage.

    2. Stroll is in a team that is too good for him. He’d be much better suited for a Haas or such.

      He doesn’t look very happy and I think that he’d feel better at Haas too.

      1. Agree, he was a decent midfield driver, but he’s not suited for a top car, it just makes him look bad as he isn’t able to capitalise on that and mix up with the likes of hamilton, russell, verstappen, leclerc, norris.

    3. He also led a race, turkey 2020, for most of its duration after putting it on pole in quali, a highlight for him, unfortunately (not a fan of stroll but when a bad driver has a good race I kinda root for him) after he changed tyres the pace was gone and he fell back, and many people only remember that, not that he was pulling away in a force india.

      1. The problem is @esploratore1, we have seen Stroll show talent and ability, but those highs are rare and haven’t been increasing as he gained experience. Too often he seemed out of his depth and increasingly so.

  8. What Stroll, Perez, and Sargeant have demonstrated this year is that top tier drivers are still essential for teams, and it’s not all about the car. Even if the gap between “bad” drivers like them and “great” drivers is still incredibly small in the grand scale of things!

    1. So Albon who got whooped 17-0 by Max in 2020 is a top tier driver? lol. That means Max is half a second faster than the likely 4th/5th/6th best driver this season.

      1. Nah, for stuff like this you just need to look at the 2020 season: how comes albon was getting better results in a toro rosso as a red bull? Obviously he was driving well in toro rosso and bad in red bull, since red bull is so fast they shouldn’t be fighting with toro rosso.

      2. than a red bull*

  9. Still arguably the best starter of the year. Two key points he needs to improve though: His qualifying and his lacking outwards attitude. His awareness on track can still use improvement as well but that wasn’t as bad this season than the years before.

  10. As I expected after Checo’s ranking.

  11. I thought Stroll was actually on a (slight) upwards trajectory over the last few years, and did defend him on a number of occasions since I felt he was getting a bit too much criticism just for being the boss’s son, but changed my mind about him this year, since he was so dire, and also unprofessional.

    I also felt it was a bit selfish of him to drive the first few races, since we saw he was still injured to some extent. Sure I can see why some were saying it was ‘brave’ but I saw it a bit differently, and think he should’ve let a fully fit Drugovich or someone else use the car ’til he was 100% again, for the team’s benefit.

    I was thinking in Singapore during the ‘shoving incident’ that maybe his dad had told him that weekend they were getting someone else instead of him for 2024. But maybe that was just wishful thinking at that point!

    1. Can’t blame him for driving while still injured, hamilton did the same with covid after russell replaced him for a race late in 2020 and impressed, while hamilton in the last race, was clearly weaker than bottas, showing he was still not fit.

    2. Edited something and forgot to remove the comma between “race” and “was”

  12. One interesting statistic that this article doesn’t mention is that in the last quarter of the season, Stroll effectively matched Alonso points wise, which is surprising.

    In the last 6 races, Stroll scored 27 points while Alonso only scored 5 more at 32.

    If you look at some of the races, Alonso to me has shown signs of getting weaker now that the car is going that way too. In the USA, I honestly believe that on this occasion, Stroll was just that bit faster than him and Alonso was behind him and not losing much time, but ended up retiring a long long time after stroll had passed him. If the reason for stroll passing was due to an issue, I’m sure he would have retired much sooner. I think he was likely just saving the car. And Button has in fact said that Alonso once or twice retired with no obvious reason when he was running behind himself.

    Then there was Las Vegas too. Alonso was very lucky to go unpunished here – and lucky to cause a safety car that saved himself and then benifitted from another later on. I still would rate alonso right near the top, but you have to say that the last quarter of his season was underwhelming based on what we expect from him – or Stroll was at least solid.

    1. Yes, I noticed as well, I didn’t go look in depth at the points, but I noticed stroll got some form back late in the season and that alonso made some unusual mistakes.

    2. They were driving different cars in Austin though so I’m not sure you can do a direct comparison there. From memory, Stroll was running the ‘new spec’ Aston, and Alonso was in the old one, since Aston Martin basically used Austin + Mexico as test sessions for the upgraded bits they had brought.

      1. While that’s true @t1redmonkey I would agree with @thegianthogweed that Alonso’s end of the season had some notable lows and there were indeed quite a few races where he seemed to be level with Stroll (though at that the points fought over were less high so 5 is still an important edge, I personally think Alonso put in less effort at that moment), but then again, Alonso was still able to rise to the occasion, mostly, when the car was there to do something with it.

    3. I think Lance’s wrists were causing more problems that he was willing to admit and he only recovered in the Autumn.

      However aside from his inconsistent pace (which has always been an issue), his attitude has suffered this year. I do think his journey in F1 is coming close to the end, regardless of Dad’s wallet.

  13. Stroll should not have a very long F1 career but I believe he would be an excellent addition to Aston Martin’s Le Mans Hypercar team.

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