Yesterday the Williams team has confirmed that 18-year-old Canadian driver Lance Stroll will drive alongside Valtteri Bottas in 2017.
Stroll, the winner of this year’s European Formula 3 championship, will replace the retiring Felipe Massa, giving Williams its first line-up change since the Brazilian was paired with Bottas in 2014. The deal keeps Bottas at the team for a fifth season following interest from Renault.
Stroll only turned 18 on October 29, which delayed Williams’ unveiling as the teenager could not be pictured with main sponsor Martini until he was of legal drinking age in the UK. He becomes the first Canadian driver in Formula One since 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve, whose last race was the 2006 German Grand Prix.
The pair were unveiled at the team’s factory in Grove, Oxfordshire on Thursday. Bottas and Stroll will drive the FW40 next year, the car which will skip a number in Williams’ lineage in order to mark the team’s 40th season in F1.
When asked by the media at the official announcement yesterday, Stroll says the drive is a dream come true and is thankful for the opportunity and support the team has shown him so far in his career:-
‘To be racing in Formula One in 2017 is incredible, I can’t thank Williams enough for showing faith in my ability. Racing in F1 was something I dreamt about as a young kid. When I began karting seriously, F1 was then the ultimate goal and especially when I started racing cars in 2014.
‘2017 is going to be a big learning curve for me, but I’m eager to absorb everything Williams can share with me so that I improve. I’ll be taking things on a race-by-race, lap-by-lap basis and hopefully progress with experience like I did when I entered Formula 4 and then Formula 3.
‘I believe contesting the FIA European Formula 3 Championship for the past two years has prepared me well for the step up. There are many elements for me to learn and I’m still young. I’ve been experiencing a 2014-spec Williams FW36 since August, which has gone very well. The power is incredible. I’m learning about the car, the incredible downforce, DRS and tyre management, finding a rhythm and finding the limit. I’m becoming more comfortable and confident with each run.
Also at the announcement yesterday Williams Deputy team principal Claire Williams said the following about their driver line up next season as follows:-
‘I’m delighted to confirm that Valtteri will be racing for Williams once again next year, and be joined by Lance Stroll. Valtteri is a much-loved member of the team and his talent is unquestionable, so for him to use that experience to help lead the team forward is exciting. He has played a pivotal role in the team’s turnaround since 2014 and we are looking forward to continuing the strong relationship we have with him into the future.
‘Lance joined the Williams Young Driver Programme at the end of 2015 and has impressed our engineers with his maturity, talent and enthusiasm. We are pleased to be able to offer him the opportunity to step up and show what he can do in Formula One, after proving a dominant force in all the categories he has raced in so far. He is still young, and we looking forward to seeing him develop as a driver. Williams has a great record of introducing young drivers to Formula One, who have achieved great results, and we hope this will be the start of a long successful career for Lance as well.
‘As a team, we continue to push forward in our goal to win races and championships, and believe this exciting fresh combination will put us in a strong position to deliver on our future targets.’