Lance Stroll still has sights on top-10 at Canadian GP despite qualifying 17th

Lance Stroll still has sights on top-10 at Canadian GP despite qualifying 17th

MONTREAL — Lance Stroll still has his eyes set on a top-10 finish at his first Canadian Grand Prix despite finishing 17th in qualifying.

Stroll was one of five drivers eliminated in the first qualifying session in front of his hometown fans at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Saturday afternoon. The Williams rookie finished with a lap time of one minute 14.209 seconds.

But the 18-year-old still believes he can earn his first points of the season in Sunday’s race.

“It’s still very possible,” said Stroll, who will start from the second row from the back. “We’ve seen drivers start very far back this year, and every year, and have good races. Especially here. There’s overtaking, there’s some strategy, stopping early. We need to figure out what to do.”

The Montreal native finished more than 2 1/2 seconds behind Lewis Hamilton, who won pole position for the third consecutive year at the Canadian Grand Prix with a course record 1:11.459. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was second in 1:11.789.

Stroll also finished 1.350 seconds behind teammate Felipe Massa, who will start seventh on Sunday.

Many critics are pointing to the stark lap time differences between Stroll and Massa, who both drive for Williams, as a key indicator of Stroll’s inability to race amongst the best.

Williams cars have also typically done well in Montreal, especially recently. Valtteri Bottas, who now drives for Mercedes, finished third at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in 2015 and 2016.

“Definitely it’s a new track for him,” said the veteran Massa of Stroll. “It’s also not an easy track. He didn’t get the best out of it. But he’s learning and getting more experience. I spoke to him a lot about the setup and the curves.

“I’m trying to help in the best way that I can.”

The Formula One rookie regretted not changing tires during the qualifying session and blamed that decision for his disappointing finish.

“The track was bad at the beginning of the session,” said Stroll, Canada’s first F1 driver since Jacques Villeneuve. “Maybe in hindsight, stopping for another set and having fresh tires when the track was at its peak would have been the right call.

“Mid-session we started to fall back because I just didn’t have the tire life.”

Sunday’s Grand Prix will now be another uphill battle for Stroll, who has only finished two of six races this season.

Stroll was forced to retire in Australia (overheated brakes), China (collision with Sergio Perez), Bahrain (collision with Carlos Sainz) and Monaco (brake issues). He finished 11th in Russia and 16th in Spain.

Former champion Villeneuve, who was at the track named after his father on Saturday, was critical of Stroll, saying the 18-year-old was too young to be a Formula One driver.

“All you can do is look at the results, and the results speak for themselves,” said Villeneuve. “That’s what I was told by the family at the beginning of the season, that the results would talk. And that’s what we have. We haven’t seen progress so far. From the first race to now, it’s been similar.

“We’ve seen so many drivers who are amazing until they’re 16 or 17, and that’s it. They don’t go anywhere. The next step just doesn’t happen. Some drivers just keep getting better, but you can’t know that in advance. It’s always risky to put someone super young, because you just don’t know how good they can be.”

Notes: Hamilton has won five Canadian Grand Prix races. His pole position in Montreal was the 65th in his career, tying him with Ayrton Senna for second all-time behind Michael Schumacher.

Kelsey Patterson, The Canadian Press


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