Off the back of a points-scoring finish at the Hungarian Grand Prix, Lance was optimistic as Formula 1 headed to the iconic Spa-Francorchamps.
With just one practice session before competitive running got underway, track time was at a premium. Unfortunately, the traditional Ardennes reared its head and the heavens opened. As a result, the Aston Martin F1 Team opted to complete one sighting lap and return to the pits, ending the session without a timed lap on the board.
A wet track in Q1 meant that all drivers utilised the Intermediate tyre. As is often the case in a session with changeable conditions, it was key to be out on track as late as possible as the track continues to improve, Lance progressed through to Q2 with P13.
As the field switched to slicks, being last to cross the line was once again the target. Lance mastered the wet-dry conditions to end Q2 in fourth and followed it up with P10 in the final part of qualifying.
As was the case in qualifying for the Grand Prix, the track was damp for the first part of the Sprint Shootout. Lance progressed in P14, then took a gamble as the only driver on slick tyres at the end of the second session. A snap at Turn 11 would send his car into the barrier, leaving him to take no further part in the session and start the Sprint in P14.
After an initial handful of laps behind the Safety Car, Lance benefitted from pitting on the first flying lap whilst others remained on wets a lap longer.
Once everyone had made the switch to Intermediates, Lance had risen from P14 to P11. In the remaining laps after a second Safety Car, he was embroiled in a battle with George Russell, one which the Mercedes ultimately won.
Shortly after, Lance got past the ailing Red Bull of Sergio Perez, and held P11 until the chequered flag fell.
Starting on the Medium tyre alongside team mate Fernando Alonso, Lance made up a position on Lap 1 at the expense of Oscar Piastri in the damaged McLaren. The Canadian followed that up with a well-executed manoeuvre on Lap 4 at the final chicane on Lando Norris.
On Lap 6, Lance made a move on Carlos Sainz at Turn 13 and as others began to pit, his position was elevated further still. Five laps later he had made it into the top five.
Just like the Sprint race on Saturday, Lance went wheel to wheel with George Russell first on Lap 5, then again on Lap 15 but both times he would fend off the Mercedes’ advances before conceding the position later in the race.
Finally, on Lap 21 Lance pitted for fresh Soft tyres and re-joined in P18. When others pitted, he gained a total of ten positions and despite dropping one place to Esteban Ocon with three laps to go, held onto ninth for a points-scoring finish.
Lance Stroll, Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant Formula One® Team driver:
“It was good to pick up a couple of points today, especially at a circuit where we haven’t been particularly strong this weekend. We made the decision to go for a long first stint on the Medium tyres because we could see some rain coming on the radar. The rain did come in some areas of the track, but it was drivable without needing Intermediates, so we boxed for the Soft tyre. It was a bit of a gamble – if the rain had been heavy enough, we could have saved ourselves the extra stop – but in hindsight two stops was probably the better strategy. The last stages of the race became about managing the Soft tyre, so I didn’t really have the grip to defend when Esteban [Ocon] was closing in.
“We’ve had a mixed start to the season and I think we know there’s some work to do as we head into the second half. That being said, it’s been a huge step up from last year and I know the team is motivated to keep pushing for more.”
Japanese Grand Prix
September 27, 2023
After making up several positions from his grid slot, Lance was forced to retire with a rear wing issue.