In wet third race, Lance excels to record third place and move to within four points of championship lead.
Lance Stroll was left with mixed emotions after the latest FIA European Formula 3 Championship races in Hungary this weekend (23-24 Apr).
The 17-year-old Canadian posted fourth, eighth and third place race finishes at the Hungaroring to move within four points of the championship lead after the opening six races.
The Montréal-born driver was distraught and mystified for much of the event after what is believed to have been a tyre issue that seriously affected his dry running pace. In the two official tests on Wednesday, Stroll posted the second fastest time using an old batch of tyres. But then switching to new Hankook tyres allotted to him for the event at the Hungaroring, which are meant to offer the same performance, Stroll’s pace mysteriously disappeared. The 4.381km track’s recently relaid surface caused heavy graining to the point that small holes appeared in the rubber which severely handicapped his qualifying pace resulting in fourth, ninth and eighth grid slots.
In the opening race, Stroll started well and challenged for second place in the opening corners, completing lap one in third before a brief Safety Car period. A six- car « train » developed at mid-distance before Stroll’s Prema team-mate Ralf Aron overtook George Russell for the lead leaving Lance to battle with the latter for second place. Stroll found himself shuffled down to fifth as his tyres went off and lost grip but fought back to take fourth at the chequered flag.
Lining up ninth for Race 2, Stroll was forced wide to avoid a spinning car at the first corner but completed lap one in eighth, a position he held to the chequered flag in the 33mins plus one-lap race having to nurse his tyres practically from the start to finish. While practice, qualifying and the first two races were run in dry, sunny and warm conditions, Sunday dawned wet, cool and breezy resulting in the race starting behind the Safety Car with Stroll eighth on the grid the entire field starting on treaded, wet weather tyres. The rain had stopped but the track remained wet, greasy and very slippery as the race got underway with 27mins remaining. Lance immediately gained a place under green flag conditions then into sixth before inheriting fourth when the two leading cars collided prompting a Safety Car period. When the race resumed Stroll immediately went into third with 12 mins to run. The Canadian was driving impressively in the tricky conditions as rain began to fall again, Lance setting the race’s fastest lap enroute to his fourth top-six result from six races and finishing just one second from second place.
The weekend was a mystery to me at times and hugely disappointing apart from the third race thank God for the rain! With the [slick] tyre issues jeopardizing my car’s performance, the key was to score as many points as possible on Saturday and I believe I did the maximum I could. I went from being ultra-fast in the official test, with a superbly balanced racecar, to driving a complete ‘monster’ due, I believe, to my [slick] tyre allocation. I had understeer, oversteer, it was a complete nightmare. Nick [Cassidy] and I found our pace just disappeared on the new tyres while Max [Günther] and Ralf [Aron] in the other Prema cars remained fast and unaffected clearly something strange happened between both sets of tyres. The Prema guys tried everything with the set-up and configuration of my car. But thanks to the rain, I was able to show some speed in Sunday’s race. Conditions were difficult and extremely slippery but we lucked in with the podium because of the rain. The aim was to stay on track, not make any mistakes and score points. In short, not the best weekend overall after the strange qualifying but we recovered the situation to be close to the lead in the standings going to the next races at Pau.