Lance Stroll's Battle With Fernando Alonso Could Be Fascinating

f1 grand prix of usa practice
Stroll's Battle With Alonso Could Be FascinatingJared C. Tilton - Getty Images

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2023 will be Lance Stroll's seventh season in Formula 1. In that time, he has developed into a driver that largely stays out of trouble, drives within his limits, and occasionally surprises with strong performances. He has also never finished better than 11th in the championship standings.

This is the tenth installment of our driver-by-driver preview of the 2023 Formula 1 season. This weekend, we will be covering Aston Martin and McLaren. You can find the rest of our previews here.

Lance Stroll's father, Lawrence Stroll, owns both the Aston Martin F1 team and part of Aston Martin itself. It is no secret that Stroll is here mostly because of this; in fact, Stroll has been driving for various forms of the team since his father bought it as Sahara Force India back in 2019.

german touring car championship 2016
Oliver Kremer at Pixolli Studios - Getty Images


The larger answer to this question is no mystery: Lance Stroll got to Formula 1 because his dad is a reported billionaire who owns a significant portion of an entire car company. His actual resume is a little bit more compelling, however.


Stroll spent just three years in cars before joining F1, bypassing two rungs of the ladder to join the series after a successful Formula 3 Europe season in 2016. It was a notably strong season, though; Stroll won a title in convincing fashion over a field that happened to include current Mercedes driver George Russell on his way up the ladder. It got him to Williams in 2017, where he recovered from retiring in his first three career F1 races to eventually grab a podium at Baku.

He continued with Williams in 2018, a far less successful campaign that saw him score points just twice. At the same time, his father was looking for other opportunities for his son. That evaluation process ultimately ended with Stroll buying what was then Force India, beating out Nikita Mazepin's similarly-wealthy father for the honor. Not one single Formula 1 fan was surprised when Stroll joined the team newly re-named Racing Point in 2019.

Stroll made no serious splash at the better team in 2019, but the program seemed to catch fire in 2020 and he excelled in the faster car. He scored his second and third career podiums and two more top five finishes, but the more prestigious highlight was his pole in an odd race at a slick and unpredictable Istanbul Park Circuit.

The team was re-branded as Aston Martin ahead of the 2021 season. 2023 will mark his third in the team's particular shade of British Racing Green.

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Joe Portlock - Formula 1 - Getty Images


While the team then known as Racing Point fielded strong mid-field cars for years that culminated in a race-winning 2020 season, it has struggled since the Aston Martin rebrand. The team has finished fifth or better just once in the past two years, first struggling as a casualty of the rule change hurting low-rake downforce setups in 2021 and then struggling to adapt to a completely new rule set in 2022. This year, four-time world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel scored points in just ten races to take just 12th in the driver's championship.

Stroll scored points in eight, enough to finish 15th. His season highlight came at Singapore, a race where he finished 6th and outran Vettel on race day. Other than that, it was an unspectacular season for the Canadian.

f1 grand prix of abu dhabi final practice
Dan Istitene - Formula 1 - Getty Images


At this point, expecting major on-track improvement from Stroll may be a moot point. He is entering year seven in what has already been a fairly long F1 career for someone without a race win, and his father's ownership of the team means that he has the job security to never worry about promising Formula 2 drivers waiting in the wings. Stroll instead heads into 2023 with a new low stakes teammate battle against a new former champion, Fernando Alonso.

Stroll performed fairly well against Vettel in 2021, even if that performance waned this past season. Alonso may be a tougher challenge. Although he is six years older and notably less successful in his F1 career than Vettel, Alonso is a famously difficult teammate. Some of that reputation comes from his history as a difficult person to work with, but more of it comes from his competitive resolve and on-track performance. While Esteban Ocon out-scored Alonso last year at Alpine, he did it amid constant quotes about their rocky relationship. For Stroll, it sets up internal battles both on and off track.

f1 grand prix of usa practice
Chris Graythen - Getty Images


With so few external threats to his continued F1 career and even fewer realistic chances to move up the grid to a bigger team, Lance Stroll's 2023 F1 season is most likely to be about his battle with Alonso. Can he beat the aging champion? Can Alonso's veteran experience help the team develop a better car and move further up the grid? Do either Stroll or Alonso have a podium in them this season, which would mark the first for the team since re-branding in 2021? While his career should continue either way, Stroll's seventh season hinges on those questions.

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