After announcing the signing of Lance Stroll, I started seeing—and out own Tom Firth pointed out to me—that there were a lot of salacious tweets and comments about his father’s wealth and Lance being a pay driver. I was seeing the same thing Tom was and after checking a follow up story on AUTOSPORT, I was even more convinced to write this editorial.
I have to be completely honest with you, I have not followed Lance’s career as I should have been doing because I am a bit preoccupied with survival at the moment so the junior series haven’t gotten the attention that they deserve and you, the reader/listeners, deserve from me. But perhaps in this case, that’s a good thing because I come at this issue completely unbiased as to who Lance is, what he’s achieved and how he’s gotten to Williams. I’m not Lance Stroll fan but I have nothing against him either as I know very little about him.
AUTOSPORT put the question to him about his wealth and pay-driver status and he wisely said:
“Everyone has their own opinion and I can’t change that,” said Stroll, when asked to comment on suggestions he earned his seat through funding.
“I come from money, I’m not going to deny that.
“But I believe I earned my shot in F1 because I won every championship that I’ve competed in in single-seaters.
“Now the FIA have put in the superlicence [criteria] for that reason, so people can’t buy their way into F1, and you have to prove yourself and win in junior categories.
“I don’t know what else to say about that.
“I don’t want to say when I’ll be able to show I’m not just here because of money because that just depends on some many things falling into place.
“I’m just going to worry about my business and I’m very happy to be here and am looking forward to next season.”
Max Verstappen’s father was a Formula 1 driver and of means too, will we not speak of the advantages he had in getting to F1? What about Nico Rosberg? His father being a champ and well connected. What of Jolyon Palmer, Pascal Werhlein, Esteban Ocon, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez, Niki Lauda, Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and even Ayrton Senna? They all paid for rides early in their career and even in F1. Senna’s family was wealthy too. The Rosberg’s aren’t too bad off either.
What of merit? We could argue that for sure but in the end, Lance has done really well in the junior series. Performances that would gain the attention of any young driver program.
It may not happen to every single driver, in fact I know it doesn’t because I’ve read tommy Byrne’s book, but suffice it to say that if a young person comes up through the ranks and has natural born talent and starts winning everything the enter, there will most likely, not always, be a young driver program interested or support gained. Lewis Hamilton is a perfect example but even in Lewis’s case, it took hustle and hard work to get that support by his father Anthony. Schumacher, Hamilton, and Vettel didn’t come from massively welathy families.
I find it very unfair to start castigating Lance because his father has money. What base behavior and double standards. Again, I don’t even know Lance but looking at his junior career, the young man has done very well and looks to be very talented.
In the past, it was the age (18-years-old) that people were screaming about as Max Verstappen entered the series but you don’t hear much about that these days and in the case of Lance, not a peep, just mean things about his father’s wealth. What a shame.
Perhaps Claire Williams said it far better than I could and with much more decorum:
“I know there have been a lot of comments about Lance’s background and I want to make it clear Williams has been a team that has made a statement of intent we would not allow financial considerations to influence our driver choice,” she said.
“That has been the case this year.
“Money doesn’t drive performance – you either have the talent or you don’t.
“Lance has proved he has talent and has what done what he has done.
“He has to do the job next year, and he will do that, to dispel those rumours.”
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT