Ex-Formula 1 driver turned pundit Martin Brundle has revealed that Lance Stroll “went up in my estimation” following his sensational performance at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, where he beat Mercedes’ George Russell.
Stroll was a huge doubt heading into Bahrain, after the Canadian broke his wrist and his toe on February 18 following an accident whilst cycling in Spain.
He missed pre-season testing after having surgery on his broken wrist, with pins having been put in place to improve his recovery.
The 24-year-old miraculously passed the FIA’s medical checks and was deemed fit for the first race of the season, despite the fact he hadn’t completed any running in the AMR23.
Stroll’s only real knowledge of the car was based off his work in the simulator, resulting in many predicting that he’d spend the bulk of the Bahrain GP at the back.
He incredibly defied all the odds to make it to Q3 with ease, before claiming a memorable sixth-place finish.
Stroll demonstrated great pace and comfortably beat Russell, with the Aston Martin driver having demonstrated “the sort of spirit” that Brundle likes to see.
“What Lance went through to get onto the grid, let alone finish the race ahead of a works Mercedes, was simply outstanding, bordering on unbelievable,” Brundle said in his Sky Sports F1 column.
“I don’t want it to sound negative about his previous exploits, but he massively went up in my estimation with his determination to drive the car despite tolerating the wrist and toe injuries that forced him to miss pre-season testing – that’s the sort of spirit I like to see.
“When he decisively got ahead of George, I assumed he simply had to physically fade at some point, but he didn’t and held on to sixth.”
Bahrain certainly was a race to remember for Aston Martin, with Stroll’s sixth place having been accompanied by a podium for Fernando Alonso.
The Silverstone-based team have certainly caught the attention of the typical frontrunners, with the side having consistently demonstrated extraordinary pace all weekend in Bahrain.
Brundle expects Aston Martin to simply grow in stature throughout the season, to the point where they could become “major challengers to Red Bull”.
“Because of their lowly championship finishing position last year (seventh place in the Constructors’), under the latest rules Aston Martin have so much more wind tunnel development time than their main three rivals,” Brundle explained.
“It’s already a good package but if they know where to go to improve it, then by mid-season they could emerge as the major challengers to Red Bull.
“That’s doubly painful for Mercedes because Aston Martin have the same engine, gearbox and rear suspension and use the same wind tunnel.
“At this juncture Red Bull will pipe up that, due to personnel movements, Aston have followed their design philosophy remarkably closely.
“That’s the playground politics of what is in effect a very small group of intensively competitive people.”