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today is Jan 30, 2023

When Lance Stroll was rushed into Formula 1 at an early age, the inevitable flaws in his racecraft could be excused in the knowledge that he would surely improve over the years ahead.

There’s no doubt that the now 24-year-old’s prowess as a driver improved over his first five seasons in F1. But during his sixth season, he produced some of the best – and, regrettably, worst – moments as a grand prix driver.

Aston Martin impressed by being the very first team to unveil their genuine 2022 car prior to pre-season testing. But it quickly became apparent the AMR22 could have done with more time in the oven as the team ran towards the back in the opening rounds. Lacking the experienced Sebastian Vettel to guide them due to Covid, Stroll had to lead the team alongside stand-in Nico Hulkenberg.

Stroll was a menace in Melbourne So when Hulkenberg out-qualified Stroll in the opening round in Bahrain, it did not reflect too well on the driver who had spent the pre-season testing the brand new car.

He earned back some pride in the race, however, making his way up the order to finish a respectable 12th by the chequered flag, five places ahead of the team’s stand-in driver. Stroll even brought the AMR22 within an outside chance of scoring a point the next weekend in Jeddah, but that ended in the closing laps after a clash with Alexander Albon.

Vettel returned for Aston Martin in Australia and suffered what could generously be described as a disastrous weekend. Incredibly, however, Stroll somehow managed to match his team mate for sheer calamity over the same three days. He crashed at the end of final practice, adding to his mechanics’ already heavy workload, then in qualifying he showed zero awareness when he drove into Nicholas Latifi as the Williams looked to nip passed in on an out-lap, severely damaging both cars and a three place grid penalty.

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In the race, he earned another penalty for weaving while defending from Valtteri Bottas and was lucky not to be investigated yet again when he appeared to force the Alfa Romeo off the track at turn three. Stroll at least went some way to redeem himself at Imola where the took his first point of the season, but Vettel had already crossed the line two places ahead of him.

Singapore was a strong race for Stroll Stroll’s early season developed something of a Jekyll and Hyde pattern, where any weekend he achieved something of note, it was marred by some regrettable incident or setback. Like in Miami, where he reached Q3 but was forced to start from the pit lane as Aston Martin did not have their fuel at the correct temperature pre-race. He did well to make his way up the order and take a final point in tenth after post-race penalties were applied, but he’d also clashed with Kevin Magnussen twice and earned a black-and-white warning flag for weaving once again.

Baku, however, was another poor weekend for Stroll. After hitting the wall in practice, he bashed the barriers twice in qualifying and ensured his early elimination. Although he retired in the final laps, he was still well outside the points while Vettel secured the team’s best finish of the season in sixth. At Paul Ricard, he failed to follow Vettel through into Q2 but a great opening lap gained him four places. Vettel caught him on the final lap, but Stroll fended him off aggressively to hold onto the final point in tenth, raising some eyebrows among the paddock.

In Hungary, a fine effort by Stroll went unrewarded. Having made decent progress through the field, he was then spun by Daniel Ricciardo midway through the race. Despite passing Bottas for tenth in the closing stages, Stroll was asked to allow Vettel through so his team mate could attack Esteban Ocon ahead. Stroll obliged, but the team failed to return the place to him when Vettel could not catch the Alpine on the final lap, leaving Stroll frustratingly out of the points in 11th.

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Zandvoort was a weekend Stroll could feel proud of, easily reaching Q3 before being denied the opportunity to run in the final phase thanks to a hydraulics problem. In the race, he maintained decent pace in eighth place but gradually fell to finish tenth – but was four places ahead of Vettel.

Singapore was Stroll’s shining performance of the season. He qualified 12th after Aston Martin’s gamble on slicks on a slowly drying track failed to pay off in Q2 but managed to move up into sixth position after taking advantage of the second Safety Car to pit for dry-weather rubber. He held onto the place until the chequered flag, taking his best result of the year and demonstrating, as he did at Istanbul in 2020, that he does have the skill to keep his car in one piece even in the most challenging circumstances.

Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso collide, Circuit of the Americas, 2022 A clash with Alonso showed a lack of awareness But even while Aston Martin surged over the final races, Stroll continued to show an alarming lack of awareness far too often. He was in the thick of the points battle in the United States, but appeared to move in front of Fernando Alonso as the Alpine driver looked to pass him along the back straight, triggering a frightening crash that put him out of the race. Then in Interlagos, he felt the need to squeeze Vettel onto the grass at high speed as the pair fought over 11th place in the sprint race. Not only was this a completely unnecessary action for a relatively minor position in a sprint race, it earned him a hefty 10 second time penalty that dropped him to 16th on the grid. Despite that, he still managed to secure another tenth place finish in the grand prix.

By now, Aston Martin had a serious chance to overturn Alfa Romeo for sixth place in the final race. While it wasn’t to be, with the two teams tying on points and Alfa Romeo winning on countback, Stroll did his part in the race, taking eighth to even beat Vettel in his final ever grand prix.

With six years of experience behind him, Stroll can no longer be considered a developing or even a young driver. As Aston Martin aim to grow into a major force over the next few years, Stroll simply must do better to eliminate the mistakes and reckless incidents that remain a defining feature of his.

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