Canadian teenager Lance Stroll stepped into the Formula One limelight as a 2017 Williams driver on Thursday and faced the immediate question of how much he owed to his billionaire father’s money — and when he would pass his driving test.
“Everyone has their own opinion, I can’t change that. I come from money, I’m not going to deny that, but I believe I earned my shot in F1 because I’ve won every championship that I’ve competed in,” the 18-year-old told reporters.
“I won Formula Four, I went to New Zealand and won the Toyota Racing Series, I won the F3 European championship in 2016.
“I don’t want to say exactly when I’ll be able to show everyone that I’m not just here for money because that depends on so many other things and details coming into place, but I’m just going to worry about my business.”
Deputy principal Claire Williams recognised there had been a lot of talk about Stroll’s background, with father Lawrence bankrolling his son’s career to date, but the team’s driver choice was not influenced by financial considerations.
“Money doesn’t drive performance in the cockpit,” she said. “You either have the talent or you don’t, and I think that Lance has proved that he’s got that talent and he’s done what he’s done in order to earn his race seat.”
Williams said Stroll was sure to make mistakes but had shown already he was a fast learner.
Stroll turned 18 last Saturday and although it was an open secret that he had the drive, an announcement had to wait until after his birthday due in part to the team’s main sponsor being alcohol brand Martini.
He will be the second youngest driver to compete in Formula One but Red Bull’s Max Verstappen has re-written the rule book — literally — for youngsters after coming in at 17.
The minimum age is now 18 and drivers cannot get a super-licence without acquiring points in other series.
Stroll was keen to play down comparisons to both the Dutchman and his own compatriot Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 champion with Williams and last Canadian to race in Formula One.
The immediate focus for the Swiss resident will be to pass a driving test.
“I’m going to try and commit to a week and just do that. Actually I need it to get from the hotel to a race, so it is important,” he said.