Rising Canadian racing star Lance Stroll is open to moves into Formula 1, IndyCar and GP2 for 2017, but is focusing on winning the FIA European Formula 3 title before deciding on a next step.
Stroll, 17, currently leads the FIA European F3 standings by 61 points with nine races remaining, taking seven wins with Prema Powerteam during his sophomore single-seater season.
Stroll previously enjoyed ties with Ferrari and is currently on the books of Williams, leading to speculation about a possible move into F1 next year due to his incredible F3 form.
However, Stroll’s first goal is to win the F3 title and not get distracted by speculation of a move up into an F1 seat.
“Prema, the last eight months I’ve been with them, it’s been fantastic,” Stroll said.
“I think their co-operation with me in F3 is great. Their understanding of me just focusing on F3 100%, not getting distracted with Formula 1, that’s really great.
“They just want me to finish a championship, they’re not pressuring me in any way to jump into a Formula 1 car and do a test. They just want me to focus on one thing at a time.
“I’ve never even driven a Formula 1 car so I don’t have a very good idea of what it’s really like, I just watch the races of course.
“I think when I have a couple of tests under my belt and I have a bit more experience in F1, I’ll get a much better idea of if I’m ready or not. Because now it’s just totally blind for me.
“I’ve driven F3, I’ve driven a couple of other categories, but I’ve never really sat in an F1 car and taken it out for a run, so I don’t know what it’s like, I don’t know how much different it is from what I’m doing now, how much more complicated, how much tougher.
“All those things I’ll figure out. If it is just another step and if I’m comfortable in the car, I don’t see why not. F3’s a very high level.”
Stroll does not feel under any pressure to emulate Max Verstappen, who jumped up from F3 to F1 at the age of 17 before becoming the youngest winner in grand prix history.
“We’ve seen Max of course, he’s an exception, I don’t want to use him as an example. He’s got the opportunity,” Stroll said.
“I believe [Esteban] Ocon, even [Felix] Rosenqvist, these guys are able to do it. Now it’s my year. I’m leading the championship, it’s not done yet.
“But I think I’ve got to a level where I’m able to step up into an F1 seat if the opportunity comes.”
Although Stroll has time on his side, he wants to make the most of opportunities that come his way, making GP2 and IndyCar possible options for 2017.
“I don’t want to rush. I’m not 25 years old, I’m still 17, so I do have time ahead of me,” Stroll said.
“But that’s a thing that’s important. We can’t just think we have time, take another year and another year because before you know it, it’s too late and there’s another 17 year old!
“One thing at a time. This year, we’re concentrating on this championship.
“And then next year, we’ll be in whatever it is: GP2, F1, IndyCar – whatever comes up, we’ll conquer next.
“Prema are extremely competitive, beyond expectations for their first season in GP2. That is a link. If Prema want to make a deal and a sensible choice for us, that’s another good option.”
Although Stroll has enjoyed support from his father, Lawrence, he is happy to have answered his critics on-track with a stunning season in FIA European F3.
“All I can do is go out and do the best I can. I have won, I am winning at the moment,” Stroll said.
“For sure it’s frustrating, I think I don’t get all the credit sometimes I deserve, but I try not to look at all those negative things. I try and really be positive.
“I know I’m the guy sitting in the cockpit driving the car and the other stuff, that’s just details.
“The people who understand that, good for them. The people who want to be jealous or want to find excuses, then I don’t waste my time with them.”
Besides F3, Stroll also raced for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January, finishing fifth on debut alongside Alexander Wurz, Brendon Hartley and Andy Priaulx.
Team boss Chip Ganassi was hugely impressed by Stroll’s ability and hopes to work with the Canadian again in the future, even if he knows bigger offers may fall his way.
“He’s doing great in F3 but I’m not surprised as I was very impressed with him when he raced with us at the Rolex in January,” Ganassi said.
“He quickly adapted to his first time in a sports car, first time at Daytona, first time in a 24 hour race, first time racing at night and first time ‘sharing’ his race car with others.
“He’s an intelligent kid with bags of potential and has a great future ahead of him. I know his dream is F1 but I hope I get the chance of running him again.”
Mercedes Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff also thinks highly of Stroll, believing his maturity to outstrip his 17 years.
“I obviously need to keep an eye on other formulae and Lance is certainly doing very well in Formula 3 this season,” Wolff said.
“He’s shown great speed, consistency and maturity this year. His speed can be seen with multiple front row starts and I think now seven wins.
“His maturity is evident and he’s not even 18. When the time comes I’m certain he’ll be ready and competitive in Formula 1.”
“Formula 1’s the objective,” Stroll adds. “However we get there, whenever we get there – I don’t know. We’ll wait and see.”