F3: Lance Stroll launches in the second half of the season

Lance Stroll © DR

– Canadian teenager goes from strength-to-strength after another three “podiums” – including two wins – at unique Norisring.

Lance Stroll’s FIA European Formula 3 Championship season continues to go from strength-to-strength and now has a healthy 86-point lead advantage. Having recorded two wins and a second at the previous Red Bull Ring event, the 17-year-old Canadian again placed his Prema Powerteam Dallara F312-Mercedes first twice plus second in the latest races staged at the unique Norisring “street” course in Germany this weekend (25-26 Jun).

Lance has been in sensational form in the opening 15-races – failing to finish on just one occasion when an innocent victim of an accident that forced him to retire with car damage. The Montréal-born driver began the Norisring weekend with a 38pt lead and left Germany 86pts ahead.
Stroll has impressively recorded 14 top-nine point-scoring finishes including nine podiums – five wins, three seconds and a third place. Additionally Lance, a Williams Formula One Development driver, has started six races from pole-position and has set three fastest race laps to underline his phenomenal form in the ultra-competitive category featuring around 20 similar Dallara single-seater cars, powered by either Mercedes or Volkswagen two-litre engines, consequently putting the onus firmly on driver ability.
Geneva-based Stroll lined-up on the front row for all scheduled three 33mins + 1 lap races following qualifying on Friday afternoon around the bumpy 2.3km Norisring circuit that basked in a blistering ambient temperature of over 35 Celsius for the two time trials. Starting from “pole” for Saturday morning’s opening race in less humid and slightly cooler conditions, Stroll slipped to second on the fourth lap and by lap 16 was a sandwich in a close three-car battle for the lead. On lap 19 third-placed Callum Ilott, Lance’s closest championship rival going into this event, optimistically dived down the inside of Stroll at the first hairpin and harpooned race leader Joel Eriksson – both cars retiring. Lance led the remaining 18-laps, despite two Safety Car periods that bunched up the field, taking the chequered flag by over one second after an intelligent and mature drive.
Saturday evening’s race saw Stroll start second on the grid and sensibly followed pole-sitter Anthoine Hubert into the first hairpin rather than scupper his race with an unsuccessful overtaking manoeuvre despite being alongside at one point. Lance kept the Frenchman “honest” remaining within one second throughout the race that featured three Safety Car periods – 0.052secs behind at the finish – having set a faster lap than winner Hubert during the race. Stroll started Sunday morning’s race from directly behind the Safety Car after an electrical problem, likely caused by heavy rain the previous evening, resulted in a race start light malfunction. Following two further Safety Car periods, both due to multi-car accidents on the first laps of racing, organisers red flagged the race in an attempt to calm the drivers. After another Safety Car start, competition began for less than seven minutes of actual green flag racing, Lance controlling matters from the front for win number five.
Prior to the next three Euro F3 races staged at Zandvoort in the Netherlands over 16-17 July, Stroll and fellow competitors attend a two-day “official” test at Hockenheim in Germany on Wednesday and Thursday (29-30 Jun).

« “It’s been an excellent weekend – Prema did an awesome job over all three days. We collected valuable points in each race to increase my championship lead which was obviously the objective. It’s cool leading the series at the mid-point but it only matters who leads after the final race at Hockenheim in October. The opening race was challenging. I made a good start but Joel [Eriksson] caught and passed me – I wasn’t hooked up completely with my car – but my pace improved. Ilott took out Joel after a lunge coming from miles back behind me. I just kept my cool for the remainder of the race. In the second race, I got down the inside and alongside Anthoine [Hubert] after the start going in to the hairpin but the track on the inside was slippery and I was cautious not to lock-up the front tyres and create an accident. Anthoine went on to drive a mistake-free race. Sunday’s final race was run behind the Safety car mainly but I still needed to be alert and manage many things that were happening to ensure I made no mistakes.
“ »Qualifying was also very good on Friday, Prema doing a great job for me with the car in extremely hot conditions. We were always in contention for good grid positions and ultimately secured three front starts. The times were ultra-close. I actually equalled Anthoine’s time who started from pole for race two but he did it first so took the No1 spot. All in all, a good few days at the ‘office’ but we all need to remain totally focussed for the upcoming races.” »

Martyn Pass,