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"I grew up watching races there. It’s going to be a dream come true to be participating in the grand prix. It’s going to be extra special with it being the 50th anniversary. To be part of the Canadian Grand Prix is incredible."

Montreal's Grand Prix Prince

Lance stroll races on to the formula 1 stage

By Jason Santerre

Way back in 1997, Jacques Villeneuve became the first (and last) Canadian driver to claim the Formula 1 title. Montreal’s Lance Stroll was born a year after that crowning achievement.

Twenty years later, Stroll will get behind the wheel of his own speed machine at the Canadian Grand Prix in June. Things will have come full circle for not only the young driver but for his team, Williams Racing. Villeneuve was driving for the Williams team when he won his F1 title. And 2017 just happens to mark the 50th anniversary of the Montreal track, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, named in honour of Jacques’ father, a racing legend who won six Grand Prix races.

“I have great memories of the track,” says Stroll from the practice track in Oxfordshire, England, home of Williams Racing. “I grew up watching races there. It’s going to be a dream come true to be participating in the grand prix. It’s going to be extra special with it being the 50th anniversary. To be part of the Canadian Grand Prix is incredible,” he says. “All of my friends and family will be there to cheer me on.”

“He’s the full package for us,” said Claire Williams in an interview with The Globe & Mail. “He has talent in the cockpit, he’s intelligent, he gives great feedback to the engineers, and he’s a really quick learner. So for us, it was an easy decision,” said Ms. Williams on the signing of the young hopeful. Stroll will be the second youngest driver in F1 history. Only Belgian Max Verstappen, who made his debut in 2016, is younger.

Youth just might be an advantage for Stroll. The F1 training regimen is daunting. After all, at 90 minutes, races are twice as long as those in Formula 3, the lower tier that acts as a stepping stone to the big leagues of Formula 1.

Both mental and physical fatigue are factors. Cramps in the legs, arms and neck combined with the incredible heat from behind the wheel of a racecar can hamper a driver’s ability to make split-second decisions. Not only does he have to be aware of the other drivers and what lies ahead on the track, he has to be in constant communication with his pit crew, making mental notes while assessing his fuel situation, tire wear, and racing strategy — and all of that at an average speed of 360 km/h, almost 100 km/h faster than the top speed of Formula 3.

Luckily, Stroll’s love for driving goes way back. He began at age five when his father bought him a go-kart for his birthday. He raced at the circuit in Mont-Tremblant. “We built tracks that didn't put him into the trajectory of anything dangerous,” said Tom Kemp in an interview with CBC. Kemp is the crew chief and instructor at Tremblant's Jim Russell Racing School. “We kept him in circles, little figure-eights. And he quickly grew out of it.”

Last year, Stroll continued his professional trajectory finishing the racing season atop the standings in the Formula 3 European Championship. He won 14 races and earned his super license, a requirement to become an F1 driver. The promoter of the Canadian Grand Prix, François Dumontier, issued a statement shortly after the news broke that Stroll was signed to Williams Racing. “I am delighted that Lance Stroll is reaching Formula 1, and I wish him all manner of success,” he said. “He is an earnest and industrious young man who has come up through the racing ranks to realize his dream and compete in Formula 1.”

“I miss everything about Montreal,” says Stroll. “My childhood friends are there and you lose that when you move away and start living this hectic life when you’re moving all over the place. Sometimes the simplicity of being at home, going to school, having a group of friends and being in one area more often is nice, but I love what I do. I love racing, I love travelling the world and seeing new places, which is great. But home always remains home.”

On March 26, Stroll will make his debut for Williams at the Australian Grand Prix, representing a new hope for a team that once ruled Formula 1.

Raising Awareness
Claire Williams was recently appointed Vice President of the Spinal Injuries Association. The charity has been close to the hearts of Williams Racing ever since the Association provided support to Ms. Williams’ father, Sir Frank Williams, who was injured in a car accident in 1986. Since then, the team has helped raise funds and awareness of the charity and its work through various fundraising initiatives.

 

Spring 2017, Vol 9 N°2

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Summer 2017
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