Faced with the rumours, very much denied by Lance Stroll, that his “heart and soul” as a Formula 1 driver is perhaps no longer fully there, Danica Patrick shut down such thoughts.
Stroll is very much a driver under pressure as the points gap between he and two-time World Champion Aston Martin team-mate Fernando Alonso continues to grow, Alonso on 170 points to Stroll’s 47 heading into the Singapore Grand Prix.
The last thing Stroll needed then was any further setbacks, but that is exactly what he encountered as Q1 in Singapore ended with a huge shunt for Stroll as he lost control of the AMR23 coming out of the final corner.
Danica Patrick says Lance Stroll does have head in the game
Stroll thankfully walked away unscathed, and after the session, Sky F1 presenter Simon Lazenby put it to ex-IndyCar racer Patrick that there have been question marks over whether Stroll’s “head is in the game, whether his heart is in the sport?”
Patrick though has no doubt that Stroll is fully committed to the team and Formula 1.
“Once you strap into the car, you’re into it,” Patrick insisted. “You’re a driver, you know what you’re doing.
“Once you’re outside the car, sure, there can be distractions, but I don’t question when someone gets in whether or not they have heart and soul in it. You have to, you’re going so fast out there, you’re doing something truly challenging that almost no one can do.”
Stroll, speaking to Sky F1 after getting the all clear at the medical centre, spoke of how he was chasing performance through those final corners having seen his Q2 chances slipping away.
And in the end, he went beyond the limits of car and driver.
“I’m feeling okay,” he thankfully confirmed.
“I think we were pretty slow. Just with the out-laps being really bad with a lot of traffic and stuff, we didn’t have any temperature in the tyres throughout the whole of Q1.
“And so then I started the lap like two seconds behind a car in front of me, I think it was the Alpine, so that we were losing a lot of downforce and also bad tyre prep and I saw we weren’t really going through to Q2 in the last couple of corners.
“So I really pushed in the last corner to try and make up some time to see if something magical could happen and find some time to go through and it just didn’t stick.”
Lance Stroll reminded he is not Fernando Alonso
Patrick was then quizzed on whether Alonso’s clear outperforming of Stroll, and therefore the mounting pressure, is starting to tell on the Canadian after that Q1 shunt?
The American ex-racer suggested though that Stroll “knows he’s not Fernando Alonso”, and so she hopes this incident serves as an important learning experience.
“I mean, at the end of the day, he knows he’s not Fernando Alonso,” said Patrick. “That’s just not a question right now and a big part of it is like, what he’s done, but also time.
“So it’s not like you’re trying to necessarily prove that you’re better than him, I think he should just be trying to learn.
“I would imagine that he’s just trying to soak in as much as possible, but it really hits hard when you do things like that, when you make true mistakes, because that really felt like a true mistake.
“And I feel like that’s kind of what he said is ‘I was so far off already, I was trying to basically throw the Hail Mary and came up short’.”
Former Aston Martin strategy chief Bernie Collins fears that shunt will have ramifications for Stroll heading into the race as well though, with a huge repair job needed on that AMR23 in time for Grand Prix Sunday.
And with effectively a total rebuild looming, Collins says that will make it very hard to nail the setup of that challenger for Sunday.
She said: “It’s interesting the comment about having a little look at the lap time delta and realising you’re down and thinking, ‘let’s just see if I can push a bit harder in the final corner’.
“It’s very hard to regain any of the lap time he’s lost in the final few corners, just to get through on this sort of send it and see type of approach. Maybe he’s looked at some overlay, some data in the garage on the run before and just thought, ‘well, Fernando is going a bit quicker through this apex, maybe I should give it a go and and hope that the grip was there’.
“And it wasn’t for him and it’s a very unfortunate way to end qualifying for him, because definitely, even going into tomorrow, even without improving his position, he would be in a much stronger position if he hadn’t had that accident.
“Because to rebuild the car tonight, to get it all set up, you’re not going to have a run apart for the laps to the grid tomorrow morning to check that the car is okay, the setup is correct, the balance is okay, everything synced together, it’s a big ask then to get that car built exactly as it was today, the same sort of setup into tomorrow, make sure there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Stroll has an unenviable task to recover into a points-paying position as he starts right from the back on a track where overtaking can be very challenging.
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