Even casual race fans hear plenty about leading drivers Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, but one of the most intriguing stories of the year come from a driver you might not have heard of yet: Lance Stroll. Stroll currently sits midway through the F1 standings with three races to go, and won’t challenge for the championship—but he’s just eighteen years old (nineteen next week.) Stroll has faced criticism and claims that his racing career is built on his father’s billions, despite proving his natural talent in winning the Italian Formula Four Tour in 2014, then last year’s Formula Three series. His rookie Formula One season started poorly—he failed to gain points in the first six races, and his performances were called “pathetic” and “one of the worst rookie performances in history” by retired Canadian racer Jacques Villeneuve. But a funny thing happened after that: Stroll started to perform, and at a July race in Azerbaijan, he became the youngest rookie to stand on a Formula One podium, with a third place finish. At this point, Stroll’s ahead of many of his elders in the standings, and we expect that by this time next year, even more will be in the rear view — so remember the name. We caught up with Stroll before the United States GP in Austin last weekend:
Is there a benchmark where you’d personally consider your rookie year a successful one?
I think it’s already been one. Starting on the front row and being on the podium are big highlights. Breaking a couple records and being in the points many many times now—I don’t think you can ask for much more in your rookie season.
You’ve had a roller coaster year. In June, you were called the worst rookie driver ever. Two weeks later you were on the podium. Can you talk about what the lows and highs have been like, especially in such a short compressed timeframe?
The lows have been frustrating, and very challenging times, but the highs have been phenomenal. Being on the podium was a dream come true.
When do you max out in terms of stress or fear?
When it counts. When it’s all on the table, during qualifying and races. It’s when you have the adrenaline, you know?
What’s the difference between racing for Williams versus racing for younger team without that heritage?
It’s wonderful to be a part of this group. Williams has so much history and have won so many championships in the past, and a chance to be a part of the name is great.
How meaningful is it to you to be the first Canadian here in F1 in decades?
It’s an honor, representing my country is a big deal.
What was it like racing at home in Montreal?
It was great, but when you’re in the car, you don’t know what country you’re in. You’re just doing your thing.
What are the biggest changes that you’ve made inside the cockpit over the season?
Just experience, knowledge, knowing where the limit is. How to manage weekends.
What part of this rookie season has been the most difficult?
Not having much experience in the car. And not having experience on most of the tracks — it’s a combination of the two.
Is there anything that separates you from the older drivers? Do they share intel with you?
Not really, no. No one shares information with one another. That’s how we compete.
What are you looking forward to in the off season?
Time off. Looking forward to take it easy. Hang out with friends. Do anything but drive a car.
You’re wearing a watch with your logo on it. What can you tell us about it?
It’s a great timepiece from Oris, and yes that’s my logo. It’s got some carbon fiber. I visited the factory in Switzerland, and saw the people working away to craft it — fascinating stuff.
Did it remind you of the guys here in the garage?
There are a lot of similarities. Both practices are about detail and a fine touch. It’s very similar.
People have been asking questions about your dad, saying that he’s paid for your seat, your whole career thus far. Are you used to it at this point?
It’s always been around. There’s not much more to really say. It kicked off early, and it’s just something I have to deal with. It’s just noise and distraction, jealous people, or whatever you want to call it. You just try to put it aside.
Was there a moment in your youth where you noticed it was a more than a hobby?
I just took it year by year, until it became a job. I like to think it’s still fun in a way. Year by year you get closer. That’s the approach we took — one year at a time.
How old were you when you first realistically envisioned that you could drive in Formula 1?
Not until last year. Of course I used to dream about it as a kid. But last year was the first time for real.