Aston Martin Formula 1 team co-owner Lawrence Stroll’s ambition to “hopefully get two cars on the podium” at his home grand prix in Canada this weekend wasn’t an outlandish goal considering the AMR23’s pace this year.
After all, it’s had five podiums from 2023’s first seven events. It’s just they’ve all come via Fernando Alonso, with his team-mate Lance Stroll yet to finish above fourth this year.
And hopes rest on Alonso again in Montreal, as while he’s in the podium mix from third on the grid, Stroll was back in 13th even before a three-place grid penalty for impeding Esteban Ocon.
He put that initial poor result down to tyre strategy errors in Q2.
“Wrong tyre at wrong moment,” said Stroll. “When it was dry we were on wet and inter and we went on dry and it started raining.”
But part of that timing angst was down to Stroll having spun approaching the hairpin, resulting in wing damage from brushing the wall. That meant he missed the chance to set a laptime in the optimum window between the track improving from earlier rain and more rain arriving.
“I think in hindsight we should have just put the dries on,” Stroll reflected.
“I spun, hit the wall, came back to change the front wing, put inters on, and it was probably right time for dries.
“It was ready for dries, I was pushing for dries, the team maybe saw some forecasts showing more rain so it’s always a difficult decision to make but it is what it is.”
Stroll is rarely among the most verbose communicators in the current F1 field, but there was a definite hint of sadness at an opportunity missed as he discussed his qualifying result.
After all, he’s thrived in tricky qualifying conditions before – putting Williams on the Monza front row as a rookie in 2017 and taking pole for his team’s previous incarnation Racing Point at Istanbul in 2020.
His qualifying disappointment on Saturday underlined Alonso’s recent assessment of why Stroll isn’t consistently up at the front with him.
Alonso’s strong support for Stroll has been an endearing (if unexpected and even, in the eyes of some sceptics, cynical and politically motivated given Lawrence Stroll’s significance in the team) theme of the 2023 season so far, expressed in ways ranging from outlandish proclamations of Lance’s future champion and decade-long team-leader potential to declining to attack him for sixth at the last race in Spain.
The general driving and set-up advice Alonso has given Stroll has been the most practical manifestation of that belief in his team-mate.
But Alonso admitted ahead of the Canadian GP that Stroll needed to get better at putting complete trouble-free weekends together if he wanted to go beyond showing “sparks” of his true capability in F1.
“I think Lance is showing the speed in the car, the commitment, we saw at the beginning of the year as well, racing with a broken hand and things like that,” said Alonso.
“You only see that when you really have passion for something that you’re doing.
“And I think, for him, the most important thing now is to get the consistency, weekend after weekend.
“We saw many times, in the past, sparks of Lance, in wet qualifying, in races, at the starts, lap one performance, these kinds of things that are outstanding.
“And then, some other weekends that the result was not coming or you get in a bad loop in qualifying, so something like that, and then the weekend is a little bit compromised.
“So, I think that consistency is going to be the next step in his career, to be constantly fighting for the top five and then at the end of the year, you see the amount of points that you gain when you get all the weekends right.
“With the motivation, the commitment that he has, and the team that Aston Martin is building now, I think it’s a matter of time that this will come.”
But – unless a truly amazing race performance is about to be pulled off – it’s not going to come in time to make Lawrence Stroll’s double podium dream a reality.