The Formula 1 community found itself embroiled in a frenzy of speculation and conspiracy theories at the recent US Grand Prix when a surprising image blunder left fans and experts bewildered.
While the promotional materials were expected to feature all 20 drivers, the absence of Lance Stroll, representing Aston Martin, raised eyebrows.
Instead, the poster displayed Felipe Drugovich, the team’s reserve driver and reigning Formula 2 champion, at the Circuit of the Americas track.
Stroll’s noticeable absence from the promotional poster fuelled rumours about his future, especially considering his challenging season alongside his teammate, the renowned Fernando Alonso.
Currently, Stroll occupies the 10th position in the driver’s championship with 47 points, whereas Alonso boasts a formidable fourth place with 183 points.
Aston Martin, as a team, stands fourth in the constructor’s championship, with a slim 11-point lead over McLaren heading into the US Grand Prix.
While initially, the omission appeared to be a glaring oversight, it was soon clarified as a simple mistake.
Stroll’s image was eventually placed on the Aston Martin motor home, but another error was discovered as Daniel Ricciardo’s name was misspelled on his garage, missing the second ‘I’.
Rumors suggested that Stroll’s absence from the preseason photos in Bahrain, caused by a cycling accident that led to two broken wrists and a toe injury just two weeks before the season’s start, might have contributed to the mishap.
However, the timing of the issue couldn’t have been worse, considering Stroll’s ongoing struggles on the track.
The 24-year-old Canadian has experienced a slump in form, managing to secure only three points in the past seven races.
In the same period, his teammate Fernando Alonso has collected an impressive 52 points.
Alonso, a two-time world champion, has been dominant, and the comparison with Stroll has been a stark reminder of the Canadian’s challenges throughout his seven-year Formula 1 career.
Stroll has only outperformed one of his teammates over a full F1 season, which was Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin during their time together at Williams in 2018.
Many attribute Stroll’s prolonged presence in Formula 1 to the financial support provided by his billionaire father, Lawrence Stroll.
Stroll’s career stats reveal that he has accumulated 241 points and secured three podium finishes during his time in Formula 1, while his teammates have amassed 504 points in the same period.
This stark contrast has further fuelled speculation about Stroll’s future in the sport.
In August, Ben Anderson, from The Race podcast, suggested that Stroll might voluntarily leave Formula 1 to explore a career in professional tennis. A
nderson explained, “He’s too far behind his teammate at Aston Martin but, in reality, he’s probably only leaving the team voluntarily because he has an automatically renewable contract thanks to his father.”
Sky Sports’ David Croft shared a similar sentiment, suggesting that Stroll had “lost his way” in the sport and might be contemplating a career change.
Lance Stroll, when questioned about the tennis rumours, jokingly responded, “Well, if I’m going to go on tour, I’d better work on my backhand a little bit, because I don’t think I’m quite at that level yet.”
He emphasized that he hadn’t seriously considered a career in tennis.
Lance’s father, Lawrence Stroll, dismissed the speculation about his son’s poor form, attributing it to “a lot of bad luck.” He highlighted Lance’s challenging start to the year, battling through the first half-dozen races with two broken wrists.
Additionally, Lawrence pointed out that many of Lance’s retirements in the season were due to factors beyond his control, including engine failures and a rear-wing failure at the Japanese Grand Prix.