European Formula 3 Champion and rookie teenager Lance Stroll is set to make his debut with Williams in 2017. He will be the youngest on the grid next season.
However, he won’t be the youngest ever to take the grid. Lance Stroll was beaten to that spot by Max Verstappen who was 17 years and 166 days old in his first race.
Lance Stroll will be the first Canadian to compete in Formula 1 in over a decade. He will have big shoes to fill as he replaces veteran Felipe Massa who is retiring from Formula 1 at the end of the season. Meanwhile, Finn Valtteri Bottas having made his debut with the Grove team stays on for the fifth consecutive year with his team.
Williams’ announcement brings the number of unconfirmed seats for 2017 down to eight. Three teams – Haas, Sauber, and Manor – are yet to confirm either driver, while Force India and Renault both have one vacancy.
Stroll admitted 2017 will be a steep challenge – but one he feels ready for.
“2017 is going to be a big learning curve for me, but I believe contesting the FIA European Formula 3 Championship for the past two years has prepared me well for the step up,” he said.
“I’ve been experiencing a 2014-spec Williams FW36 since August, which has gone very well. The power is incredible. I’m learning about the car, the incredible downforce, DRS and tire management, finding a rhythm and finding the limit. I’m becoming more comfortable and confident with each run.
“I’m eager to absorb everything Williams can share with me so that I improve. I’ll be taking things on a race-by-race, lap-by-lap basis and hopefully, progress with experience like I did when I entered Formula 4 and then Formula 3. I’ve enjoyed success in karting, F4, Toyota Racing Series and most recently F3 – winning every category I’ve competed in -so I believe I have earned a shot in F1.”
Being the son of Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, Lance believes he deserves the seat purely on merit.
“I come from money and I am not going to deny that,” said Stroll. “But I believe I earned my shot in F1 because I have won every championship that I have competed in.
“Now, the FIA has put in the super license for just that reason so people can’t just buy their way into F1. You have to prove yourself and win in junior categories.”
Deputy team principal Claire Williams hailed Williams’ ‘fresh’ new line-up, adding: “I’m delighted to confirm that Valtteri will be racing for Williams once again next year, and be joined by Lance Stroll.
“Valtteri is a much-loved member of the team and his talent is unquestionable, so for him to use that experience to help lead the team forward is exciting. He has played a pivotal role in the team’s turnaround since 2014 and we are looking forward to continuing the strong relationship we have with him into the future.
“Lance joined the Williams Young Driver Programme at the end of 2015 and has impressed our engineers with his maturity, talent, and enthusiasm. We are pleased to be able to offer him the opportunity to step up and show what he can do in Formula One, after proving a dominant force in all the categories he has raced in so far. He is still young, and we looking forward to seeing him develop as a driver. Williams has a great record of introducing young drivers to Formula One, who have achieved great results, and we hope this will be the start of a long successful career for Lance as well.
“As a team, we continue to push forward in our goal to win races and championships, and believe this exciting fresh combination will put us in a strong position to deliver on our future targets.”