Newly-crowned European Formula 3 champion Lance Stroll looks almost certain to graduate to Formula 1 with the Williams Racing team next year, although an announcement is not expected until the end of October at the earliest.
The apparent hold-up on confirming the Canadian’s appointment is apparently at the behest of Williams’ title sponsor Martini, on account of Stroll’s under-age status – the youngster turns 18 (and therefore of legal drinking age in most countries) on October 29.
Since Felipe Massa announced his retirement from Formula 1 at the end of the season in the lead-up to last month’s Italian Grand Prix, the vacancy at Williams had been a topic of much interest among paddock insiders.
That being said, Stroll has long been considered a favourite for the role of teammate to Valtteri Bottas and there are two principal reasons that he is attractive to Williams: talent and money.
Stroll’s father, Lawrence, has been bankrolling his son’s motorsport aspirations for a number of years. Having bought the Prema Powerteam’s Formula 3 operation and bankrolled a number of Williams engineers working on his son’s car during the 2016 F3 season, he has also provided Williams with sufficient cash to allow the youngster to privately test for the outfit at a number of Grand Prix circuits.
When the team is also publicising these test outings, it’s a fair bet that a contract is well and truly in place.
|WHO IS LANCE STROLL?|
|Full Name||Lance Stroll|
|Born||29 October 1998, Montreal (CAN)|
|2014||Italian Formula 4, Prema Powerteam, 18 races, 7 wins, 13 podiums, 1st overall|
|2015||Toyota Racing Series, M2 Competition, 16 races, 4 wins, 10 podiums, 1st overall
FIA European F3 Championship, Prema Powerteam, 32 races, 1 win, 6 podiums, 5th overall
Formula 1, Scuderia Ferrari, Develop driver
|2016||FIA European F3 Championship, Prema Powerteam, 27 races, 13 wins, 20 podiums, 1st overall
Formula 1, Williams Martini Racing, Development driver
Stroll Sr made his fortune in the fashion industry and has flirted with Formula 1 as a sponsor for over twenty years. He started out licensing Pierre Cardin products in Canada and subsequently did the same with Polo Ralph Lauren. He later acquired the rights to market Ralph Lauren’s products across Europe and entered into a partnership to establish Sportswear Holdings Limited in a joint venture with Hong Kong magnate Silas Chou.
The company acquired Tommy Hilfiger and later Pepe Jeans, using the subsequent IPO of the former to get both brands into Formula 1 as a sponsor of Team Lotus. The Hilfiger brand later switched to Ferrari in the late 1990s, where Stroll also bought fellow Ferrari sponsor his Asprey & Garrard after the British jeweller hit financial troubles.
The Hilfiger and Asprey brands were eventually sold off, and Stroll invested in Michael Kors and helped build the business up for public flotation by 2011.
His wheeling and dealing has helped amass him an estimated fortune of $2.4 billion, a hefty collection of rare collector Ferraris and the ownership of the former Canadian Grand Prix venue of Mont Tremblant. Stroll has been rumoured in the past as a potential investor in both the Sauber and Force India teams – no doubt as a mechanism of getting his then extremely crash-prone son into Formula 1 – but none of these deals has come to fruition.
Images via Motorsport.com