|Photo Credit: Williams Martini Racing|
The last time the Canadian flag was flown by a driver in Formula 1 was in 2006 when Jacques Villeneuve drove for the BMW team. Though there has been no shortage of talented Canadians attracting the attention in Europe such as Bruno Spengler and Robert Wickens, the latest leading hopeful for seeing the maple flag flown in the top open wheel racing series currently rests in Lance Stroll. A young driving prospect from a well-off family (the latter being an important component for access to Formula 1) Stroll has spent the past few years in a transition from karting to smaller open wheel development series. Supported by the Ferrari Driver Academy in recent years, 17-year-old Lance Stroll is now under the umbrella of Williams Martini Racing heading into 2016.
Lance Stroll’s addition to the Williams Martini Racing’s Young Driver Development Program was announced on November 26th. "I’m really honoured to be part of such a great team and one with so much history and success. I cannot wait to start working with Williams and very much hope we can achieve great things together in the coming years.” said Stroll adding how reaching Formula 1 is a top career goal. Willams Martini Racing’s Deputy Team Principal Claire Williams commented on their new development driver saying, "We have identified Lance as a promising talent for the future and we are happy to provide our support to his development as a driver. We look forward to working with Lance in 2016 and to the success he can achieve in the future."
Graduating from Italian F4 as the champion in 2014, the 2015 saw Stroll involved in the wild and competitive FIA F3 European Championship for Prema Powerteam. The turbulent rookie year for the 17-year-old Canadian in F3 has been marked with some bumps in the road. Enduring a wild crash at Monza that was ruled his fault, Stroll would eventually claim victory in Race #1 at the Hockenheimring. Concluding the 2015 season by scoring 6 podium spots, Stroll has already pledged a return to Prema Powerteam for the 2016 FIA F3 European Championship. Also racing for M2 Competition in New Zealand in 2015, Stroll captured the Toyota Racing Series crown. Realizing his career is still a young one, he believes the resources provided by the Williams Martini Racing Young Driver Development Program could best serve him in his progression up the motorsport ladder.
Leaving the Ferrari Driver Academy in favour of Williams Martini Racing’s program, the move comes after questions regarding his former development program circulated in late August. There had been rumours earlier this year suggesting Scuderia Ferrari was considering cuts to their Driver Academy. This speculation was strongly denied by Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene.
Stroll’s move to Williams Martini Racing is not without some historical reflection. The Williams Formula 1 team also recruited Canadian Jacques Villeneuve from IndyCar for the 1996 on route to a 1997 championship. Time will determine if Lance Stroll will be a future pilot with the nine-time championship-winning constructor.