Lance Stroll has suggested that “missed opportunities” during the 2023 Formula 1 season dwarfed the points gap between him and Aston Martin team-mate Fernando Alonso.
Despite being sidelined from pre-season testing with broken wrists, Stroll impressed in the nascent rounds to follow up a sixth-place finish in Bahrain with a strong run to fourth in the high-attrition Australian GP.
But while Alonso capitalised on Aston Martin’s newfound competitiveness to land eight podiums, Stroll failed to improve upon that result at the third race in Melbourne.
Having encountered a wretched run of six straight Q1 eliminations between Italy and Mexico, the Canadian rebounded positively in the closing stages to convert third position on the grid into fifth in Brazil before matching that placing in Las Vegas.
Stroll details how he never doubted his abilities during his mid-season slump, citing that his late improvement reflected his renewed confidence in Aston Martin’s car.
“It feels good to do well, for sure,” he said.
“But I knew that if I feel the platform working well underneath me, and I can drive the car freely without kind of dealing and driving around things that inherently bothered me in the car, I’d be at a good level and I’d get the most out of myself.
“And I know that for a few months with changes that were made, there were weekends where I just couldn’t get into that place where I felt free in the car, and I can just drive at my best. Because it just wasn’t behaving the way I wanted.
“And at this level when you have those issues, when the car is just not behaving how you want inherently, and it doesn’t agree with your driving style, it won’t work.
“And I think in those moments you can’t put the doubt on yourself.
“You just have to know that when it’s going to be there and it’s going to behave the way you want, it’s going to go well, and when it’s not there it’s not going to behave the way you want it’s going to be more challenging.
“That’s F1, the drivers are all very high level, you can never be competitive if you’re not comfortable and confident in your car and just driving freely and it’s working. I think that’s my perception of it.”
Nevertheless, Stroll ended the latest campaign a considerable 132 points behind his experienced, two-time champion team-mate, who clinched fourth in the standings.
However, the ex-Williams driver has pointed to numerous incidents outside of his control that denied him from scoring at a higher rate.
“Yeah, it’s been a season with a lot of bad luck, a lot of missed opportunity,” Stroll reflected. “I don’t like using the words bad luck, but I think missed opportunities.
“But I guess it’s bad luck when I think about the failures and stuff. We had races like Saudi running P4, engine problem, Monaco quali, hitting debris. Damage to the car in Q2 and starting from mid-pack in Monaco, you lose your weekend.
“I think back to places like Suzuka, having a good race, rear wing failure.
“In Zandvoort we missed the pitstop when the rain came down, we stayed out on track, it was a wrong decision. We were in a good place to score big points there. But I think that’s part of the season.”
Stroll adds that he was determined to avoid getting caught up in his struggles in order to prevent himself from then missing out on seizing the chance to escape his rut in form.
“Sometimes it goes your way a lot. And sometimes it doesn’t always go your way,” he continued. “And I think as long as you try and just kind of stay present and focus on one weekend at a time, all these things that kind of go wrong can change very quickly the next race, and they all go right.
“And if you’re not totally present and caught up in the past, about everything that did happen, sometimes you miss those opportunities when they can next present themselves. And that’s not good. I think it’s really about being present.
“It’s really about taking it one race at a time. And accepting that it can be a rollercoaster sometimes.
“It’s not always smooth sailing, it’s not always a straight line, I guess that’s racing to an extent.”