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18-year-old Formula 1 driver beats world champions

In a crazy Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Lance Stroll may have provided the zaniest result. (Photo: Sky Sports)

In a crazy Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Lance Stroll may have provided the zaniest result. (Photo: Sky Sports)

by Alan Dawson
BAKU, Azerbaijan – Lance Stroll, an unheralded Belgian-Canadian racing driver, just secured his first ever podium finish in Formula One.
What makes Stroll’s accomplishment remarkable is that he is just 18 years old and has barely finished High School.
Stroll, a mere novice in F1 racing, finished third in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday and becomes the youngest rookie to race to a podium.
Though he was pipped to the Baku finish line by accomplished drivers like Daniel Ricciardo and Valterri Bottas, Stroll still managed to do something unthinkable.
This is because Stroll kept a cool head to beat two of the faces of Formula 1 — Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari and Mercedes athlete Lewis Hamilton.
“I’m lost for words,” Stroll said. “I can’t believe what just happened. It was a crazy race but we stayed out of trouble.”
Vettel and Hamilton may have been involved in some of that “craziness” as the title rivals shared a flash-point in the middle of the race when Vettel seemingly rammed Hamilton’s car. Vettel was consequently struck with a ten second penalty.
Later, Hamilton was forced into an unscheduled pit-stop amid safety concerns over a malfunctioning headrest.
Both incidents clearly hampered Vettel and Hamilton’s chances of success. Vettel, after all, finished 5.97 behind race winner Racciardo, with Hamilton adrift by 6.188 seconds.
In the end, Ricciardo may have been the one to win a chaotic race but Stroll, at 18, undoubtedly won the event. Stroll, the 18-year-old Canadian who drives for Williams, gained a reputation for crashing in his rookie season. Worse, he seemed flippant about it. The son of billionaire investor Lawrence blamed his crash at the Monaco Grand Prix in May on failing to learn from his mistakes on the PlayStation.
“It really p***** me off, because every time I play the PlayStation game, it’s always those corners that I can’t get right, and in reality it’s still those two corners,” Stroll said. Three of his first five races in Formula One ended in retirements.
In Baku on Sunday, Stroll emerged from a race that resembled a videogame intact, as the second-youngest rookie ever to make the podium in a Grand Prix.
Three safety cars and a red flag gave an opportunity for the slower cars and teams to score points, with title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel engaged in a running battle that likely has more episodes to run.
While Stroll may have benefited from a stop-start race, he has also been improving. This month he took his first points in Formula One, with ninth at his home Canadian Grand Prix.
“It was such an intense race, a crazy race, and so much happened, the red flag and hopping out the car and hopping back in and having to reset. It happened so quickly,” the European Formula 3 champion told Motorsport.com after the race.
Jacques Villeneuve, the great Canadian winner of the 1997 F1 World Championship, had suggested Stroll might be one of F1’s “worst rookies in history” – even after he took points in Montreal.

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