Stroll breakthrough no surprise

Bayden Westerweller Roar Guru

By , Bayden Westerweller is a Roar Guru

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    Lance has Strolled his way in to Formula One contention, thanks in part to his father's wallet. (David Davies/PA via AP)

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    For a driver who was pleading for help at Monaco, Lance Stroll has come a long way in the past month, from barely legal and out of his depth to assured and composed in the heat of battle.

    The Canadian’s third place at last weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix was borne from circumstance, yet the rookie had to avoid the carnage which ensued on Sunday and lie in position to capitalise on others’ misfortune.

    That he was deprived of second as he crossed the chequered flag by a surging Valtteri Bottas was academic, Stroll maintained strong pace in the closing laps despite the seemingly inevitable outcome of the Mercedes sailing past and looked as though he belonged for the first time.

    The eighteen-year old’s breakthrough wasn’t a simple case of being in the right place at the right time, though it’s not difficult to chart his rise in retrospect, as indications had been evident for a while that he was developing despite the concerning lack of return in the standings.

    It was always going to be a rough initiation debuting with an outfit of Williams’ calibre where points are anticipated consistently, coupled with the regulation upheaval which is much more demanding than previously, yet he’s overcome a scrappy and derided commencement to his career and now offers the Grove outfit viable relief in the event that Felipe Massa strikes trouble, as realised at Baku.

    Lance Stroll sits on car

    (David Davies/PA via AP)

    Forced to wait until Russia to complete a Grand Prix distance, Stroll was deprived of precious mileage which testing in older machinery – as the Canadian utilised prolifically through 2016, is no substitute for. While raw pace was left wanting, his demise at the opening events were largely out of his control, notably Bahrain when Carlos Sainz exited pitlane directly into his unwitting path at the first turn.

    He sounded like Bambi crying for its mother at Monaco when his brakes “lost a lot of heat and it was hard to regain the right temperature” following the safety car, though in fairness many drivers struggled to keep their cars out of the wall on the restart – Daniel Ricciardo was lucky not to come a cropper, while contemporary freshman Stoffel Vandoorne –albeit eight years his senior, wasn’t so fortunate.

    Troubling the scorers for the first time, on home soil at Montreal no less, when crossed the line in ninth having lined up 17th, was timely inroads, just as critics – this columnist included, were sharpening the pitchforks.

    Eighth on the grid at Azerbaijan was comfortably his best Saturday effort to date, outqualifying Massa for the first time in the process, which until events twenty-four hours later, was arguably a greater watershed than Montreal.

    His ultimate podium, “a dream come true”, while aided by frontrunners and his teammate ‘s setbacks, speaks to his worthiness through a polished performance over the balance of the weekend, rather than relying on safety cars and red flags as Bottas did from a lap down.

    Stroll had already doubled Jolyon Palmer’s career points tally from 28 Grands Prix following his two at Canada, he’s now tripled Esteban Gutierrez’s return over three campaigns – 59 Grands Prix, which might not represent the most flattering comparisons, though it immediately acquits him of amounting to a roadblock afforded an opportunity purely on account of somebody’s chequebook.

    A steep learning curve continues to await the Canadian, nevertheless the signs are that the most difficult phase is in the past, which is more than can be remarked of some at the same point in their careers. A clean run and seizing the initiative have hopefully instilled confidence into Stroll that with patience and intelligence, the rewards are there to be reaped.

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