• Lance Stroll

Canadian racing prodigy is proving his place in Formula One

Stroll Position.

Avatar By: Vawn Himmelsbach March 6, 2021

Most families wouldn’t pick up and move across the pond because their 12-year-old wants to become a race car driver. But that’s exactly what Lance Stroll’s family did, uprooting their life in Montreal and relocating to Switzerland in 2011 so he could get the experience he needed to make it from karting champ all the way to Formula One.

But this wasn’t a flippant decision, nor an indulgence. Stroll was scouted when he was just 11 years old by the Ferrari Driver Academy, which was developing young drivers for Formula One. At the time, Stroll was the youngest driver to enter the academy’s Maranello program.

“I grew up as a bit of an adrenaline junkie my whole life,” said Stroll from his home in Switzerland via Zoom. “I was introduced to racing through my dad and I caught the bug through him. He was very passionate about racing — he had a racetrack just outside of Montreal.”

When Stroll turned five, his dad, Lawrence Stroll, gave him a go-kart, which he would race around traffic cones in the racetrack’s parking lot. By the time he turned eight, he was competing in — and winning — karting competitions across North America, including the championship at the Tag/Cadet Florida Winter Tour in 2010. It was during this time he was scouted for the Maranello program.

“It was really thanks to my mom, my dad and my sister — they supported me through that time and they really committed to my racing career and moved over to Europe with me. We all just jumped on a plane and moved,” Stroll said. “One thing led to the next and here I am in Formula One.”

But it wasn’t always an easy ride. Stroll was still a kid, and it wasn’t until he was 16 or 17 that he saw Formula One as a real possibility for his career. He also initially faced criticism, particularly from the media, who suggested Stroll’s billionaire father was simply indulging him in a very expensive hobby.

Lance Stroll

Charles Coates/Getty Images

Those critics, however, would soon eat their words. After winning a trio of back-to-back titles in the junior single-seater categories (the proving grounds of world motorsport), Stroll set the bar during the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix by becoming the youngest driver in Formula One history to make the podium in their rookie season. He then went on to achieve first pole position and two podium finishes in the Formula One Drivers’ Championship in 2020.

Now, the 22-year-old is a rising star on the Formula One grid. And this year, as he enters his fifth year of Formula One competition, he’s part of the newly minted Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team (AMCF1), representing the brand as it returns to Formula One after more than 60 years. His team-mate is veteran Sebastian Vettel, a four-time world champion.

Stroll’s dad also happens to be their boss. He took over the Aston Martin team two years ago in a bid to rebuild it. Of course, that was interrupted by a global pandemic, which shook up last year’s season — and sets high expectations for the season ahead.

This isn’t lost on Stroll. Last year, about halfway through the season, he was sitting in fourth place, but then he had a few bad races and contracted COVID-19. “It really fell away from me,” said Stroll. “[This year] I want to get more out of myself, build on some of my strengths and weaknesses, and be a better driver.”

Stroll has already been noted for his ability to drive in wet weather conditions. It’s something he demonstrated when he took the first pole position of his Formula One career at the rain-soaked Turkish Grand Prix last November — the first Canadian to do so since Jacques Villeneuve. “That was a really great achievement in wet, difficult conditions,” he said.

While the high-speed sport does carry risk, for Stroll — who likes to ski and surf in his downtime — it’s all about taking calculated risks, especially when driving in difficult conditions. Not that it makes it any easier for his mom, Claire-Anne. “I mean, my mom, I need to give her a hug [before every race],” Stroll said. “And there are a few more gray hairs on my dad’s head.”

Stroll has long since proven he’s a bona fide Formula One driver — one who this year is expected to hit his stride. For Canadians who haven’t heard the name Lance Stroll, they can expect to start hearing it a whole lot more.

Vawn Himmelsbach / Special to the Wheels

Banner Image:  Mark Thompson/Getty Images