Canadian Lance Stroll coontinued his preparation to the 2018 Formula 1 season by completing 62 laps around the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona, Spain today.
Lance Stroll drove the Williams FW41-01 powered by the Mercedes-AMG F1 M09 EQ Power+ power unit one more time, focusing on long runs before he flies to Melbourne, Australia for the opening round of the season.
His teammate Sergey Sirotkin and the team’s third driver, Robert Kubica, will share the driving duties on Friday, the final day of pre-season testing.
The Montréal native said he was happy with the overall performance and handling of the new Williams, the first car of the British marque to be been designed under the guidance of Paddy Lowe, the former technical director of Mercedes AMG.
“We certainly want to be in Q3 in Melbourne, that’s the plan. We’ll see if it’s possible. If it’s not, then I want to get everything out of the car,” said Stroll. “It [the FW41] is definitely a step forward compared to last year. If its competitive compared to the other cars we don’t know yet. So yeah, definitely feel more stability, more grip than last year.
“We’ve started to get some good running, the car’s been reliable. I’m feeling pretty good in the car, we’ve made some good steps in the right direction.”
Stroll added: “We wanted to improve overall downforce last year, just overall grip level. It was pretty clear we were struggling in the high-downforce circuits compared to lower-downforce. The new car seems better in low-speed corners and even high-speed corners the downforce is working. It’s quite good to know that the car has definitely made a step in the right direction. I believe everyone has so it’s about who made the biggest and best step. We’ll only find out in Australia.”
Lap times don’t say much
The weather improved dramatically this week in comparison to last week when Europe was caught in freezing air coming from Russia. It was important, if not crucial, for all teams to complete their test programme. “It’s been a pretty intense programme, especially today [Thursday] it’s probably the most intense day. We tried to gather all that information we lost last week.”
Stroll insisted that raw lap times don’t mean much at this stage.
“To be honest I haven’t been looking much at lap times. I’m focused on what we’re doing. It’s not the time to compare to everyone else. It’s testing, we don’t know fuel levels, tires, all that. I believe compared to last year we’re in a good place so that’s what we have to focus on,” Stroll added.
The young F1 driver explained that the combination of the surface of the track and the level of grip of the tarmac contributed to produce some odd lap times.
“The surface is, you know, very smooth, therefore the [tire] degradation is not very high,” Stroll continued. “The tire warm-up is very different here in Barcelona compared to other tracks. The tires are lasting probably longer than expected and normal than it will be in normal race weekends in normal conditions, it’s not the usual tire life we experience.”
Stroll also progressed as a driver
At end the conversation, Stroll admitted that not only the car has made progress, he too.
“Some of my weaknesses last year, I believe, was probably qualifying... I mean, just, the very little running that we have in the practice sessions on the qualifying tire, in the qualifying mode, it sometimes makes it challenging to then go into qualifying,„ he declared.
“Also the car wasn't always competitive in qualifying, both of us were often getting knocked out in Q1, therefore it never gave me a lot of time to actually improve, because we'd do two runs in Q1 and that'd be our qualifying, so... when you do Q2 and Q3, you actually become a better qualifier, because you just get more practice and more tires, and that helps with the next race. Additionally, the car wasn't really suiting me and I had a tough time driving around some of those problems. That was a bit of an issue last season, but this year we made some steps in the right direction, it's been a good winter of reflection and work in order to improve on some of those weaknesses, but at the same time last year I look at some of my strengths, scoring the points we've scored, some of the results we've had, those were some incredible highlights, so I want to build on that going into this year.”
Additional reporting by Scott Mitchell