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Williams taking ‘wait and see’ approach on Massa’s F1 future

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Williams is taking a “wait and see” approach on deciding Felipe Massa’s Formula 1 future, preferring to focus on its performances on-track towards the end of the 2017 season than distract itself with driver discussions.

Massa, 36, had planned to retire from F1 at the end of last season, only for world champion Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement and Valtteri Bottas’ subsequent move up to Mercedes to free up a seat at Williams once again.

Massa has appeared to enjoy a new lease of life in 2017, finding the new-style cars both fun and challenging as well as leading Williams’ charge on-track alongside rookie teammate Lance Stroll.

The Brazilian’s performances have led to suggestions he could continue for a second year beyond his planned exit from F1, but deputy team boss Claire Williams is not looking to firm anything up yet.

“Felipe has done a fantastic job, it’s been a bonus year for us. He very kindly came back and he’s really delivered for us,” Williams said.

“Obviously the past couple of races have been tough for him with his medical issue [in Hungary] but we’re through that now and we’re looking forward to him delivering for the rest of the year and we really just have to wait and see.

“I think I’ve made it really clear that the team at the moment are focusing on the constructors’ championship, we need to make sure that we consolidate our P5.

“I don’t think we’re going to close the gap to [Force India], unfortunately, but there’s a lot of teams behind us that would love to overtake us and take that P5 and we can’t afford that.

“So for us the focus really has to be on track performance at the moment rather than diluting that effort with thoughts about driver line-up.

“There’s still eight races to go, there’s plenty of time to be thinking about next year.”

Williams happy to ‘hold off’ on 2018 F1 driver decision

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Williams is happy to “hold off” on making a decision on its Formula 1 driver line-up for 2018 as it focuses on improving its on-track displays after a tough start to the season.

Williams currently fields Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll, a mix of experience and youth, but has failed to keep up with midfield front-runner Force India through the first half of the year.

Force India sits fourth in the constructors’ championship with more than double the points of Williams, who leads a tight-knit group down to Renault in eighth place, 15 points adrift.

While Stroll looks set to continue with Williams and Massa has hinted he may look to continue through to 2018 despite initially planning to retire at the end of last season, deputy team boss Claire Williams has confirmed that no decision about next year’s line-up will come any time soon.

“There’s a lot of talk already isn’t there, about drivers across the paddock. For us, we’ve decided we’re going to hold off a bit on our driver decision,” Williams said.

“We’ve got a fight on our hands on the race track at the moment and to be distracted by those kinds of conversations isn’t something that we want to be happening at the moment.

“[Force India’s] got a nice points haul on us at the moment we need to focus on, rather than anything else.”

Spotlight firmly on Stroll after brilliant podium in Baku

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SPIELBERG, Austria (AP) The spotlight is on teenage driver Lance Stroll at this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix following his brilliant podium finish two weeks ago.

The 18-year-old Canadian produced the drive of his young career to finish third at the Azerbaijan GP, answering his critics in style.

Having secured a podium in just the eighth race of his career, he now has a strong platform to build on.

“For sure he’s young, he has a lot to learn but he proved that he’s growing,” Williams teammate Felipe Massa said, with a “much better performance than (observers) were expecting.”

At 36, Massa is twice Stroll’s age and knows all about the pressures of F1. He was agonizingly close to winning the F1 title when driving for Ferrari – losing it to Lewis Hamilton on the last lap of the 2008 season.

Now in his last year in F1, Massa is committed to helping Stroll.

“I met him when he was seven or eight years old, so I really have no problem to pass on everything I can to help him,” the Brazilian said. “He’s a lot more confident.”

Stroll was once part of the prestigious driver academy at Ferrari where he first met Massa.

Although Stroll won last year’s European Formula 3 championship by a large margin, being the son of billionaire investor Lawrence Stroll allowed critics the freedom to speculate his seat at Williams was more down to financial backing than his own talent.

Failure to finish four of the first six races of his debut season gave those critics even more ammunition.

Stroll responded with ninth at his home GP in Montreal and followed that up with his brilliant performance in Baku – narrowly missing out on second place to Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas.

“Before, I just did not have the confidence to push the car, because the car was just not giving me what I needed,” Stroll said. “(The car) is also getting more from me.”

Massa’s experience, Stroll says, will prove vital over the course of the year.

“At the moment I am at a stage in my career where I do not always know what I need from the car and Felipe does,” Stroll said. “I need to start feeling what needs to be done with the car. Sometimes it might go in the wrong direction, but it is a learning process.”

Massa enjoying F1 more, open to continuing into 2018 with Williams

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Felipe Massa is open to extending his Formula 1 career through to the 2018 season with Williams, saying he has started to enjoy racing in the sport more after un-retiring over the winter.

Massa had been due to end his F1 career in Abu Dhabi last year, only for a seat with Williams to arise following Nico Rosberg’s shock decision to retire and Mercedes’ move for Valtteri Bottas.

Massa, who made his F1 race debut in 2002, has been in a fine vein of form so far this season with Williams, scoring 20 points through the opening eight races, and was in the fight for a podium in Baku before being forced to retire.

In an interview with the official Formula 1 website, Massa admitted that he was enjoying F1 more than before, having been given a second chance in the sport by Williams.

“I am enjoying it more. It was a big decision to carry on, but once you have taken up that new challenge it also makes you happy,” Massa said.

“I am with a team that likes and respects me a lot – and they listen to me. That all makes you happy, and that is what you see.”

When asked if there was a chance he could continue racing in F1 next year, Massa said: “Maybe, yes. I mentioned that some weeks ago, yes.

“Things are going well. I feel very competitive, as I like the car that I am driving. I love the new rules. For my driving style everything works very well. The only thing that has to be sorted out is the ‘luck issue’!

“So I don’t see any point not carrying on. But I am not in a hurry. I enjoy my situation race by race, and then the time will come to make the talking.

“I am sure it will not take long.”

Lance Stroll scores first points at home in Canada

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Williams Martini Racing’s Lance Stroll has endured a baptism by fire of sorts in his debut season in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship. With three DNFs in the first three races of the season, and a season-best 11th at the Russian Grand Prix, Stroll has been vastly overshadowed by veteran teammate Felipe Massa, who has two sixth-place finishes and two ninth-place finishes to his credit.

However, Stroll’s home race at the Canadian Grand Prix marked a drastic turn in fortune for the 18-year-old Canadian. Despite qualifying 17th, Stroll drove a calculated and solid race to emerge in ninth at the checkered flag to score two points, the first points of his Formula 1 career.

“I wish it came a bit earlier but it happened!” an elated Stroll told NBCSN’s Will Buxton. “It’s been possible for a long time, things falling into place and getting everything to work. No technical issues, no contact; just clean air and knowing how to do what we need to do.”

MONTREAL, QC – JUNE 10: Lance Stroll of Canada driving the (18) Williams Martini Racing Williams FW40 Mercedes on track during qualifying for the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 10, 2017 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

In coming from 17th, Stroll knew he needed a car with strong balance and straight-line speed in order move his way forward. And, as he further explained to Buxton, the Williams Mercedes was more than up to the task. “The balance was good all race. I knew we had good straight line speed. I chose my overtakes at the right time. I stayed patient. My engineer gave good communication. Took it to the end here which was great.”

Stroll finished by emphasizing his joy in securing his first career points in his home race. “It means the world to me. To finish the race, see the fans and the Canadian flags up the air. It’s very special.”

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