Young Jewish-Canadian F1 driver for Aston Martin, Lance Stroll, was in the thick of the action throughout the first Australian Grand Prix to be held in three years, in front of hundreds of thousands of spectators at Melbourne’s Albert Park from April 7-10.
In the practice sessions, Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton got a bit too close for comfort to Stroll’s #18 Aston Martin racing car, leading Stroll to tell his team in frustration, “(He’s) totally impeding me!”.
Then in the first qualifying session, a huge misunderstanding between Stroll and Williams’ Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi resulted in their cars crashing, and their top 10 qualifying campaigns abruptly ending.
Latifi slowed to allow Stroll to pass, who then slowed down himself and veered to the right to approach turn six, not realising that Latifi was there, with no room to avoid a collision.
Race officials ruled that Stroll had caused the accident, and he copped a three-place starting grid penalty, lowering him to 19th (second last) spot for the race start on Sunday afternoon.
Despite all that pre-race drama, Stroll, 23, refocused and backed himself to chip away at making progress throughout the 58-lap race, being one of just five drivers starting with hard tyres, which suited the hot and dry conditions.
Although unable to match the pace of eventual race winner Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), runner-up Sergio Perez (Red Bull), and third-placegetter George Russell (Mercedes) – who were all one minute quicker – Stroll overtook nine drivers by lap 40 to at least temporarily enter the top 10, and give himself a sniff at earning his first point for the season.
He was even in ninth place at the start of lap 42, straight after a virtual safety car period, but when trying to defend that spot against Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas – who ended up finishing 8th – Stroll used a tactic called weaving along the main straight.
He moved to the right and back, and then shifted to the right again, which race officials later deemed in breach of the rules, issuing him with a five-second time penalty.
Fading away at the end, Stroll finished 12th, 9.216 seconds behind 10th-placed Alexander Albon (Williams).
While Stroll remains pointless after 3 races, he remained upbeat in the post-race press conference.
Speaking about the weaving incident, Stroll said, “I was a bit surprised that I got a penalty for that”.
But he added, “We did not quite have the pace for points today, although we were able to defend a position inside the top 10 for a while late on, [which] was a good effort.
“We will keep our heads up, and dig deep, to try to extract more from the car in the races to come.”
Just days before flying to Melbourne, Stroll headed home to Montreal to attend the funeral service of his grandfather, Leo Strulovitch, who died aged 90.
The next F1 race will be the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix in Italy on April 24.
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