Rake in Progress: Lance Stroll

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin’s young Formula One driver, talks to The Rake about the firm’s new Vantage, the pressures of the sport, and how he blocks out the noise.

Rake in Progress: Lance Stroll

It’s been a big few years for Aston Martin. Their Formula One team is hitting its stride, and has recently re-signed two-time champion Fernando Alonso. As a road-car company, the marque has launched a series of important models. Its first SUV, the DBX, arrived in 2020, eventually accounting for half of all sales the following year. The DB12 dropped in 2023 — the luxurious grand tourer with roots that date back to James Bond’s steed of choice, the DB5. This year is their biggest yet. “2024 is a year of immense product transformation at Aston Martin, with the introduction of four new models to the market before the end of the year,” says Lawrence Stroll, the executive chairman and part owner. 

The first launch is the all-new Vantage, the brand’s low-slung sports car and perhaps the most exciting of its range. Who better to try it out than Lance Stroll, Lawrence’s son and the Aston Martin F1 driver? “Having driven the new Vantage on both road and track, it is very clear the huge technical advancements the team at Aston Martin have achieved,” he tells The Rake. 

Lance has always been a dab hand behind the wheel. He signed to the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2010, and in the junior categories won the Italian F4 Championship in 2014 and the 2016 F3 European Championship, beating a talented grid including George Russell and Lando Norris. Like Max Verstappen, Stroll skipped F2 and advanced to F1 with the financial backing of his father in 2017. 

Stroll is yet to have the same success in F1, but he’s shown flashes of brilliance and the toughness required to win. At the start of the 2023 season, he fractured both wrists and a toe before the opening race weekend, missing all of pre-season testing after undergoing surgery. But he fought to get back in the car as quickly as possible, and just two weeks later finished sixth in the opening Bahrain Grand Prix. 

Now the fight continues, as he and his teammate battle to get Aston Martin to the top. We caught up with Stroll before the Chinese Grand Prix in April. 

How did you get into racing, and do you have any early memories that stand out?
I was always passionate about it. For my fifth birthday I got a little car. We’d set up some cones in the parking lot and I’d drive around in my little go-kart, and that’s kind of when I got my first taste of being behind the wheel. One thing led to the next and I started competing in local championships around Canada when I was eight years old. I ended up moving to Europe when I was 12, to take it all a bit more seriously and race internationally in go-karts. Then I did Formula Four, Formula Three, and everything to get where I am today. It’s been an incredible journey. 

How important was family in your early career? 
I’m very lucky that my whole family is very supportive with what I was doing. My mom, my sister and my dad were a huge part of my racing career. Without him, you know, I wouldn’t be where I am today. We all moved to Europe together as a family, and I was very lucky that I had the financial support to do it, which a lot of people don’t have. Racing is super-expensive. And to do it competitively you have to be in Europe and go through the ranks. I was very fortunate that my sister and my mom are so supportive, too, and were willing to move their lives and everything over to Europe for my racing career. 

How has your dynamic with your dad changed over the years? 
We’ve always been on this journey together. It was a father-and-son racing journey. So it started in the early days in go-karts in Canada, when he’d come to support me at the races. He was the backbone of my racing career from day one. Supporting me financially, helping me with everything that could make us more competitive. He’s supported me in so many ways and has given me love and passion from day one, and we still have that passion and love and strong relationship today with Aston Martin and F1.

You recently got behind the wheel of the new Vantage. What were your thoughts on the car?
Yeah, I mean, it’s a good-looking machine. For starters it’s very sexy and it’s an evolution of the old Vantage. A lot has changed in the platform, the technology that has gone into the car, the chassis; I know it’s a big evolution from the old Vantage. The class-leading power is the obvious one, but when you drive the car, the thing that surprises you the most is how dynamically capable it is. The weight distribution is perfectly balanced, and the new dampers and tyres allow for great responsiveness and chassis control. It truly delivers on driver engagement and is great fun to drive, especially on the track. 

How has this season been so far? 
It’s been so-so. There’s been some good races and not-so-good races. You know, the cars are pretty competitive at some events and less competitive at others. So there’s some work to do. We’re trying to bring as many upgrades as we can to make the car more competitive each weekend. And we have a plan to do that, which is exciting for the rest of the season. 

Do you have a favourite track? 
I would have said Suzuka in the past, but I just had a pretty miserable weekend there. So I think that’s slowly fading. But it is Suzuka to drive. 

What driver have you always looked up to? 
I always loved [Michael] Schumacher growing up, watching the car in red. He was a big inspiration of mine just to become a Formula One driver. 

What’s the biggest life lesson you’ve learned in your career? 
Don’t let anyone get in the way of you trying to achieve your dreams or tell you that you can’t accomplish something or do something. Believe in yourself and never take your eye off the ball, even if people try to pull you left or right. 

Formula One is a high-pressure environment. How do you tune out the noise and stay focused?
I try to live in my own little bubble at the track. It’s my time to enjoy my weekend. It’s something I do for myself, and the way I think I deal with all the noise and pressure, expectation, all these things, is to really enjoy it, for the same reason that I enjoyed starting racing and go-karts for the first time. It’s important to do that even at this level. 

Do you have any goals outside of Formula One? 
I’m not too focused on that right now. Solving world peace is not at the forefront of my mind. 

What do you hope to have achieved at the end of your career? 
Some big results... This year, to try and get some podiums. Right now it’s a bit difficult, but make the car go faster. Next year is hopefully a bit better, and 2026 is a big opportunity for all the teams with new regulations and Honda coming in, which is very exciting. That’s a big opportunity for a very competitive season. 

Images courtesy of Aston Martin.