Ex-Ferrari team manager makes huge Lance Stroll claim

Lance Stroll has often attracted criticism for being a pay driver in Formula 1.

F1 analyst and former title-winning Williams team manager, Peter Windsor, has hailed Lance Stroll as “the greatest pay driver of all time”.

Despite facing criticism for being labeled a pay driver, Stroll’s achievements on the track, including three podium finishes and a pole position, have solidified his place in the sport.

Lance Stroll began his Formula 1 journey with Williams in 2017 and has since faced accusations of securing his seat through financial backing from his father, Lawrence Stroll. 

However, Stroll switched teams in 2019 when his father rescued the struggling Force India team, subsequently rebranding it as Aston Martin at the start of the 2021 season. 

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The team’s ambitions to become title contenders have been evident, and they recently moved into a state-of-the-art factory near the Silverstone circuit.

In 2023, Stroll’s performance alongside two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso has sparked debates about pay drivers once again, as he currently trails his teammate by 94 points after the first 11 races.

Nonetheless, Peter Windsor has come to Stroll’s defence, emphasising that many accomplished drivers in F1 history have relied on external funding during their rise to the top. 

Speaking via a recent YouTube stream, Windsor praised Stroll’s father, Lawrence, for not only supporting his son’s F1 career but also using his resources to create a new team out of the former Force India operation, which now proudly bears the iconic Aston Martin name.

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Windsor stated, “The payment for Lance to be in Formula 1 has been a very constructive thing, and it’s given a lot of jobs to a lot of people, and it’s a whole new thing, so in that sense, you’ve got to say: ‘Wow, that’s the perfect use of being a pay driver – and he’s got a reasonable amount of talent as well.'”

The F1 analyst went on to draw parallels between Lance Stroll’s situation and historical instances of drivers seeking financial support to further their careers. 

“If you go through the grid, quite a lot of drivers at some point would have had to have begged and borrowed money to get to the next level of motor racing. And does that make them a paying driver?”

He cited examples such as Nigel Mansell mortgaging his house to compete in Formula 3 races with March in 1978 and Niki Lauda securing a bank loan to seal a deal with BRM. 

“[Look at] Nigel Mansell mortgaging his house to do five Formula 3 races with March in 1978: does that make him a paying driver? It kind of does, doesn’t it? If he hadn’t paid that money to March, he wouldn’t have raced in ’78 and probably would never have made Formula 1.

“Niki Lauda [got] a bank loan to get the BRM deal. Michael [Schumacher], I guess, at some point [was a pay driver].”

Windsor also acknowledged that even legendary figures like Michael Schumacher might have faced similar situations in their early careers.

Looking at the influence of the Stroll family on Aston Martin’s Formula 1 team, Windsor argued that the team would not have got to where it is today without their input.

Highlighting the pivotal role played by Lance Stroll in the creation and success of the Aston Martin Formula 1 team, Windsor emphasised that without him, the team would not exist as it does today. 

Rather than criticising Stroll for not being as strong as his teammate, Windsor argued Aston Martin’s supporters should be grateful for his involvement in the outfit.

“Everybody who’s an Aston Martin fan should be very grateful that Lance Stroll is a Formula 1 driver, because if he wasn’t his father wouldn’t have bought the team and it wouldn’t be Aston Martin.

“The whole thing is hinged around Lance Stroll. Without him, there wouldn’t be an Aston Martin Formula 1 team because his dad wouldn’t be doing it.

“Without Stroll there would be no Aston Martin, so there’s no point even thinking: ‘They need a better driver than Stroll’ – anybody who thinks that doesn’t understand the genesis of the team.

“I don’t think they think in terms of [winning] the Constructors’ Championship, I think they just want to go out and do was well as they can in every race. Obviously there are budgetary controls now that were not around before but, equally, they’ve got much more money as a team than they’ve ever had before and they’re going into that great new factory with all those facilities, they’ve got very good people there still.

“So they will be hoping that, on the back of all that, they can be up there with Red Bull. That’s what they’re hoping.

“And I think the old man thinks, as long as they’ve got Lance in one car, they’re 90 per cent of the way there. All they need is another driver that Lance can match himself against and can maybe win some races if Lance isn’t winning races.

“I’m sure that’s how he thinks. I’m sure he thinks if that car is capable of winning a World Championship, Lance Stroll is quite capable of being World Champion.

READ: Fernando Alonso reveals Lawrence Stroll’s offer

“And I don’t think Lawrence Stroll would be in Formula 1 if he didn’t think that – any more than any driver would be in Formula 1 if they didn’t think they could win a grand prix, and therefore the World Championship. There’s a massive amount of ambition there.”

Windsor also shed light on the influence of past F1 executives, particularly Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore, in shaping the pay driver culture in the sport. 

According to Windsor, their decisions regarding Formula 2 and Formula 3 resulted in an environment where aspiring drivers often had to secure external funding to progress through the junior categories.