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THREE TAKEAWAYS: 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

The latest addition to the Formula 1 calendar, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, produced one of the most dramatic races of this decade as chaos ensued at the Baku City Circuit.

After polesitter Lewis Hamilton had suffered an unusual incident with his headrest not being secured and Sebastian Vettel being given a time penalty, putting both in the pitlane one more time, Daniel Ricciardo took his fifth win in the sport.

Valtteri Bottas rebounded from a first lap puncture to finish second after beating Lance Stroll on the line.

Every team that had one car left in the event scored, with Renault being the only team to suffer a double retirement.

Ricciardo’s Fifth Win

Red Bull is rarely having a straightforward day in 2017, and Daniel Ricciardo certainly worked hard to claim another victory.

Ricciardo started in 10th after a qualifying crash and was forced to pit on Lap 6 to remove debris from his brakes, pushing him down to 17th.

As drivers around him suffered incidents, teammate Max Verstappen became the sixth team retirement of the year, and he made passes, Ricciardo was already up to 10th by a Lap 13 safety car period and fifth by the red flag ten circuits later. The safety car stint also saw him move onto the faster supersoft tires while the rest of the top-10 continued on the soft compound.

The Australian also again showed his gutsy overtaking abilities on his mission to the front. He passed both Marcus Ericsson and Carlos Sainz in turn 1 on Lap 10 for 13th, jumping on Sainz’s overtake of the Swede. A move by both Williams of Stroll and Felipe Massa took him to the podium positions at the inside of Turn 1 on Lap 24 thanks to late braking before the two leaders disappeared.

His run of four straight podiums since Spain is the best of his career and the chances of a third top-four championship finish are looking brighter by the weekend. That is if Red Bull’s unreliability problems do not develop.

Stroll’s First Podium

Fans of the sport are now left on a cliffhanger over whether the Canadian racer is beginning to blossom.

Stroll looked fantastic all weekend and rarely made an error on track in practice or qualifying.

His first points finish of ninth in Canada and more track time seemed to have given him more confidence.

He out-qualified teammate Felipe Massa for the first time in qualifying, leaving McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne and Renault’s Jolyon Palmer as the only permanent racers to not do this after eight rounds in 2017.

This is Williams’ 16th podium of this decade. Stroll is the fourth competitor to claim a top-three finish alongside Bottas, Pastor Maldonado and Massa.

He is the youngest person to score a podium in their rookie season, at 18 years and 239 days. It happened over a year since the team’s last top-three finish at the 2016 Canadian Grand Prix.

A third top-10 finish in a row in Austria may help the argument over his ability. Only five other Williams entrants have done this in the last 10 years – Nico Rosberg (2007, ’08), Rubens Barrichello (’10), Bruno Senna (’12), Bottas (’14, ’15, ’16) and Massa (’14, ’15, ’16).

Vettel and Hamilton Take Gloves Off

This contest sparked to controversial life as the safety car pitted at the end of Lap 23. Lewis Hamilton prepared for the restart, and Sebastian Vettel made contact with his rear before pulling alongside and hitting his right sidepod.

The German was penalized on Lap 32 with a 10-second stop-and-go penalty, resulting in a pit lane time loss of around 30 seconds. Vettel eventually recovered to fourth place, extending his Drivers’ Championship lead by two to 14 points.

Vettel’s incident had memories of 2010 when he was involved in some dramatic events while fighting for his first title, including his infamous ‘crazy’ gesture towards Mark Webber when the Red Bull rivals crashed at Turkey. In a way 2017 is like 2010 for him, when many may have thought he was not ready to become a champion because of his crashes. It is the first time since then he hasn’t had as much control of his destiny.

From 2011 through 2013, he had arguably the fastest car on the grid and had the mental advantage of being reigning champion. This year, like seven years ago, he is fighting to take the title against the odds.

Vettel now has nine penalty points, and if he were to offend again in Austria and gain another three-point penalty, he would be given a one-race ban for gathering 12 on his license. He may need to be careful and drive conservatively.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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THREE TAKEAWAYS: 2017 Canadian Grand Prix

The look of the Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship has changed again after Lewis Hamilton gained vital points on Sebastian Vettel by winning the Canadian Grand Prix.

Hamilton dominated the race for his sixth victory in Montreal, becoming the second driver to do this following Michael Schumacher (seven).

It is the first track he has won at on six occasions, and the third time in his career he has taken three straight victories at a circuit (Britain, United States 2014-16; Canada 2015-17). After placing 25 points behind the German after Monaco, the gap lies at just 12, marking a critical moment in stopping Vettel’s momentum as soon as possible.

Further down the grid, fan favorite Fernando Alonso again suffered a DNF for McLaren-Honda, classifying 16th. It was ironic that Alonso was in the top-four after 21 laps of this race, where he would have expected to be in the final portion of the Indy 500 had his engine not blown on Lap 179. This season is the first time that McLaren has not scored points in the first seven races of a year as its pace/unreliability crisis grows.

Hamilton Changes Record, Again

On Saturday, the Brit equaled his hero Ayrton Senna’s tally of pole positions (65) and is set to break Michael Schumacher’s record of 68 in coming months.

His pole time was an all-time venue record at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, a 1m11.459s, while his race fastest lap of 1m14.551s was the quickest since Kimi Raikkonen in 2005 (1m14.384s).

Hamilton led every lap of a race for the 11th time in his career, moving to joint-fourth on the all-time list alongside Schumacher and Jackie Stewart. He also achieved his best lead of the year, 19.783 seconds, after triumphing by just three and six seconds in Spain and China. It was also the biggest difference between Hamilton and another driver since the 2015 Italian Grand Prix (Vettel, 25.042s behind), 36 races ago.

He completed the ‘grand slam’ of having the pole, win, fastest lap and leading every lap for the second time this year, and fourth time overall. Hamilton is the first driver to do this twice in a season since Nico Rosberg in Russia and Baku in 2016.

Important Drive?

Although just seven races have passed in 2017, Vettel will already be thinking about the long game.

The German finished just fourth after being forced to make two stops because of front wing damage, ending his run of six podiums. It was his 12th consecutive top-five finish, continuing the second-best streak of his career (19, 2010 Brazilian – 2011 Indian Grands Prix).

Vettel made one of the overtakes of the year at the left-handed first turn on Esteban Ocon on lap 66 after six laps behind the Force India driver.

Ocon was stuck behind teammate Sergio Perez, moving to his right while Vettel attacked the left. It was incredible that Vettel managed to stay away from contact by expertly braking, while Ocon was forced to run out of track and go across the run-off. This lost Ocon momentum and allowed Vettel into fifth before attacking Perez on Lap 69.

Stroll’s Breakthrough

During 2017, the story has always been that Williams has relied on Felipe Massa for points.

For the first time in Canada, Lance Stroll led the team when Massa’s race ended after just one lap through a crash with Carlos Sainz.

Stroll made many confident overtakes throughout the race, not making any errors, before finishing ninth to become the third Canadian to score in F1 after Gilles and Jacques Villeneuve. Canada now has 338 points in the sport.

Williams’s chief technical officer Paddy Lowe believed Stroll’s result was one of the team’s best of the year, especially after Stroll started with three straight DNFs.

“It’s a great story,” Lowe said. “Given the difficult start Lance has had to his F1 career, this feels like a race win to us. It was an incredible drive. I think this result will boost his confidence going forward and will give him some real momentum.”

F1’s next round, the first official Azerbaijan Grand Prix, could produce anything with no current drivers winning at Baku in the past, and the circuit where Hamilton had one of his ‘off days’ in 2016.

EMAIL CAMERON AT @cpatersonf1@gmail.com

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Three DNFs Kick-Off Stroll’s Career

The massive surprise in the Drivers’ Championship so far this season is Lance Stroll sitting last for Williams despite having what could be the fourth-fastest car on the grid.

Stroll will start the Russian Grand Prix still awaiting the feeling of expending energy for a full Formula 1 race, spending around one and a half hours or two hours in his FW40 cockpit.

His retirement at Bahrain was his third straight in his rookie campaign. It would be easy to critique the Canadian, but none of them are entirely down to inexperience.

His car suffered a front left brake problem in Australia before a racing incident with Sergio Perez saw him retire on the first lap in China.

Carlos Sainz then became the first driver to be penalized with a grid penalty for an on-track misdemeanor in 2017 after colliding with Stroll during the last race.

Both drivers retired from the event and caused just the third safety car period in Bahrain’s 13-year history at Turn 1 on Lap 12 of 57 as Stroll’s car was left stuck at the corner with massive right sidepod damage.    

“I saw Sainz coming out of the pitlane,” Stroll said. “I was 50 or 60 meters in front of him in the braking zone, and was already turning in, and he drove into my side. There is not much else to say, as I have seen the video and it was ridiculous.”

He is the first driver since Pastor Maldonado in 2015 to do this but is keeping his head high for the future 17 races.

“I am just disappointed and hope my luck turns around sometime soon,” he said. “I can be frustrated, but it won’t get me anywhere. On the bright side, there are many races to go.”

Despite initially looking unsure in his new machine, and being the victim of online criticism, Stroll has steadily improved during the last two rounds. He got to Q3 for the first time in China, not being able to challenge his teammate Felipe Massa with only having one late run in the car after showing that he possibly needs more than one lap to find lap time.

He appears to be making less steering corrections and not over-driving his car as much when lapping tracks. The 18-year-old is sometimes pressured by fans because of his projected level of talent and the feats of Lewis Hamilton (podiums), Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen (points finishes) during the last decade at the start of their rookie years.

Points to look out for in Russia are that he could become the first driver to retire from four straight races in their debut season since Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi in 2010. Only three other drivers done this in the 21st century – Juan Pablo Montoya (2001 – also when at Williams), late ex-Minardi driver Justin Wilson (‘03) and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel (‘08 – at Toro Rosso).

Four straight retirements at the start of a year have only happened three times for Williams during 39 past seasons, with Jacques Laffite (1984), Nigel Mansell (‘88) and Montoya having this misfortune.

The only good omen for Stroll if this happens is these names have all stood on the podium in either CART, Formula 1 or the Verizon IndyCar Series.

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Rookies Crash Early in China

Rookies Lance Stroll and Antonio Giovinazzi are both wishing to forget the Chinese Grand Prix after crashing in the opening laps.

Starting in 10th, Stroll hoped to make the most of his qualifying effort. However, contact with Sergio Perez entering turn 10 resulted in Stroll going off track into the gravel.

“I was hit from the rear at Turn 10, and that was the end of my race,” the Canadian said. “I was in front, knew the corner was mine and had to turn in eventually. It was just unfortunate as that was my race over. I got hit, and then the car was broken, most likely with a puncture and damaged (the) suspension. While today was difficult, we have some positives to take out of this weekend, as the qualifying was good even if the race was not what we wanted. But it is still early days, and there are a lot more opportunities. I am now looking forward to Bahrain next weekend, and that is what I am concentrating on now.”

Perez suffered a puncture from the contact but rebounded to finish ninth.

Meanwhile, Giovinazzi was looking for a solid result after crashing in qualifying but ended up with another wrecked car. On the damp pavement, he got on the gas hard off the final corner, losing grip and hitting the pit wall.

“First of all, I want to apologize again to the team,” he said. “They did a great job to get the car ready for the race. It was a shame that I crashed again today. A learning lesson – I just want to forget this weekend quickly.”

Giovinazzi will now have to wait and see whether he gets to race in Bahrain, as it depends if Pascal Wehrlein is healed enough from a back injury sustained during the off-season. Stroll knows he will run, and hopes to prove naysayers wrong who believe he moved up to the premier racing series too early.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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Alonso, Riccardo Among Seven DNFs in Austrailia

With new cars and a wider tire from Pirelli, it’s expected drivers are going to run into problems as they work out the bugs. While 20 started the Australian Grand Prix, seven found themselves sitting on the sidelines before the checkered flag flew, with a total of eight experiencing problems.

Stoffel Vandoorne was the only driver of those with problems to cross the finish line, finishing 13th. The team had been experiencing power issues earlier in the weekend, and at Lap 10, Vandoorne suffered a longer pit stop than normal due to “recycling” the power unit so he could restart his McLaren Honda.

Fernando Alonso was the last driver in the race to pull off the track, retiring to the garage with three laps left in the event behind the wheel of his McLaren Honda.

“It was a suspension failure,” Alonso said of what put him out of the event. “I think that’s what happened to stop us from finishing the race. It was really good. I was driving one of my best races so far and yeah, we were in the points all race long. We had to do huge fuel saving that was helping us a lot to keep the position. We were surprised to be far up, but we definitely need to be more competitive very soon.”

While he didn’t get the finish he wanted, he noted they are decent performance-wise, with the ability right now to finish ninth “in normal conditions on a typical circuit.

Kevin Magnussen had hoped to start off his time with Haas F1 on a positive note but found himself out of the race on Lap 50 following contact on Lap 1. Magnussen hopped the curb, hitting Marcus Errison and going into the gravel pit.

He was followed in 16th by rookie Lance Stroll. Stroll’s F1 career has been rough thus far, with wrecks during testing and an incident earlier in the weekend during practice. As a result, he started the race from the rear of the field after changing the gearbox. Despite this, he was able to quickly make up ground, moving up six positions to 14th in the first stint. However, he’d find his race over at Lap 44 as a result of mechanical issues.

Daniel Riccardo also had a mechanical failure, but his problems began right from the start of the event. After crashing in qualifying and changing the gearbox, the hometown hero was unable to get going on the start due to the car getting stuck in sixth gear. After spending time in the garage, he got out on track two laps behind the leaders. Riccardo put together 27 solid laps, till his car stalled on Lap 29 with a fuel pressure issue.

“On the plus side I’m getting out of here,” Riccardo said. “I don’t know. It’s been a long week. Don’t get me wrong – it’s been fun. I feel bad for everyone – the fans, obviously. I believe there are more people supporting me here than the others. I know they would’ve loved me to get out there and race, but it just kind of boiled over from yesterday. The five-grid penalty sounded bad enough, but then we had other issues. Just a long day. Happy to move on. Obviously, I’m disappointed, but I’ll wake up tomorrow. It’ll be fine, and I’ll be ready to prepare and go for China.”

Riccardo added the laps he was able to make were good as they were able to get “valuable track time” for information on the new car to continue learning and developing.

“If I’m going to look on the bright side, (teammate) Max (Verstappen) has a really good pace, so maybe we can learn something from his race today and as the team moves forward,” he added.

Marcus Errison also found his day end after his car unexpected stopped in the corner up in the third section, resulting in an 18th place finish. His problems began earlier in the event right from the start as Magnussen made contact with him when he jumped a curb.

Errison wasn’t the only driver spending time in the gravel pit, as Jolyon Palmer was off track quite a bit through the race as he fought brake issues with his Renault entry. He eventually retired, resulting in a 19th place finish.

Romain Grosjean took the final spot on the grid at the finish as a result of his car catching fire in the pits on Lap 15. He had been running around the sixth or seventh spot following his best qualifying effort to date for Haas F1.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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Thoughts and Observations From F1’s First 2017 Test

Looking back on the week that was testing, it’s possible to draw conclusions – but that’s ultimately pointless. The teams are going through things at their own paces, including any problems that present themselves, and the public doesn’t get to know the actual reflection of that for now.

More guesses can be made in Australia, and more comments will undoubtedly come flowing through from PR officers. Until then, you can look too much of a fool by predicting how a Formula 1 season will pan out from such a short amount of running and knowledge.

Even with this in mind, here are some takeaways from Barcelona.

Mercedes Still fast

Despite some fans potentially hoping for a slight downfall, F1’s reigning Drivers’ and Constructors’ champion is still looking like the fastest team despite the changes in regulations. 

Ferrari has led some of the final classifications, with Kimi Raikkonen on top twice. The Italian team has topped sessions before and will do in the future; it doesn’t necessarily mean anything special. The other two days have been led by both Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton as they quietly go about their business.

Apart from an apparent electronic problem on day four, the team seems to continue to have a competently reliable car and the possibility of being towards the sharp end of the grid. Its W08 machine completed 558 laps during the four days, and only 68 on the final day, the highest total of any team on the grid.

McLaren Still Seemingly Struggling

The team is still having unreliability problems as they prepare for a third season with Honda. You would be forgiven for thinking it was Groundhog Day at times during the test.

The first two days were tough for the team, including an oil systems issue and a necessary power unit change as they completed just 69 laps (Fernando Alonso 29, Stoffel Vandoorne 40), the least amount of any team.

A final total of 208 laps came from the test, the second-lowest amount of any team, just slightly better than Toro Rosso.

Racing Director Eric Boullier was unsurprisingly cautious about the problems after the first day of running.

“Of course, it’s disappointing to have encountered issues so early in the running, but this situation is not too unusual with a brand-new car,” he said, “It’s better to have these issues here than in Australia.

“Honda is investigating the problem carefully in order to find the proper solutions, so we need to let them do that before drawing any premature conclusions.”

If, and that is a big if, these problems continue, it will surely be frustrating for Fernando Alonso as he comes to the end of his career. Someone being 35-years-old, as barbaric as it is, is effectively nearing retirement age and he might not have many races left to have many opportunities to shine near the front of the grid.

This is also potentially harmful to Stoffel Vandoorne. He is effectively the next possibly special driver that McLaren has found and if he cannot get results it may affect parts of his driving while he is still in a learning stage towards the sport.

Time will tell whether McLaren can return to the top-five in the Constructors’ Championship for the first time since 2014.

Stroll-ing into the gravel

F1’s newest arrival, Lance Stroll, has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons – using testing to find the limits of his Williams car and damaging his car in some accidents.

As a result, allegations have already surfaced about Stroll not being up to F1 and a line of questioning over whether a jump from European Formula 3, skipping two series in GP2 and GP3, and competing in the new era of F1 is a wise move. However, recall the same type of overreactions surfaced surrounding Max Verstappen possibly being too young for F1. We all know how that ended up.

The team failed to run on day four due to safety concerns over previous damage, despite this day being a day designated for learning about Pirelli’s new wet tire range and the team being one of the worst teams on the grid for racing when rain hits a track.

Many will surely be concerned about their potential standing on the grid and whether they can remain in the top five of the Constructors’ Championship with so many competitors, like Renault and Toro Rosso, aiming for new heights in 2017.

Other issues

Stroll was a target of criticism, but some of the other members of the F1 grid also explored the run-off areas, including Bottas (Mercedes) and Jolyon Palmer (Renault). It wouldn’t be too surprising, due to the longer span of an F1 car in 2017 and wider front wing if the first Grands Prix sees many stupid crashes as drivers find their feet with the new dimensions. An Australian Grand Prix featuring just the points finishers completing the race has happened before and could always happen again.

One other minor problem with testing was the final day being put aside for wet tire testing, something that the teams didn’t do a lot of and the track had to be specifically dampened artificially which didn’t actually work. With thoughts that Pirelli is still developing a new set of wet tires, rain-filled sessions at the first race may be interesting.

Although a lot of focus was put on McLaren, another team which ran into high-profile technical issues was Toro Rosso. Its car completed just 183 laps over the four days after some problems including engine and drivetrain issues, which is just under three complete distances of the 66-lap race.

 

The final test sessions take place at the Barcelona track on March 7-10 before cars get packaged away again ahead of the first round of 2017 at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne on March 24-26.

EMAIL CAMERON AT cpatersonf1@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Williams Officially Release FW40 Car

After photos had been teased a few days earlier, the 2017 Williams FW40 Formula 1 car was officially released to the world.

Williams had initially released computer-generated images of what the car expected to look like, but photos of the real thing have confirmed its design.

The team keeps its white Martini-themed livery for a fourth straight year as they celebrate their 40th anniversary since first arriving in the sport back in 1977.

Despite the massive changes including a lower rear wing and arrow-shaped front wing, to the untrained eye, the car resembles an evolution from its FW38 predecessor, with a massively square shark fin attached to their engine cover.

This shark fin was not originally debuted in earlier images with it a late surprise to the fans, with just Mercedes currently the team without the device on their car, although they are expected by many to be testing something in the next two weeks.

It also has a larger airbox above the driver’s cockpit and less slanted bargeboards than those of competitors such as McLaren or Renault.

Returning driver Felipe Massa will debut their car on the first day of testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya before rookie Lance Stroll gets his first laps as an official F1 driver.

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Mercedes, Williams Confirm Testing Plans

Two more decisions have been made over who will be on track during the first pre-season test in Barcelona next week.

Mercedes and Williams have released the details of who will be driving their new machines during the first four days of testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, depending on the sessions going smoothly and favorable weather conditions.

For the current Constructors’ champions, new driver Valtteri Bottas will have the honor of completing the first official lap in the car on Monday morning, with Hamilton taking over in the afternoon. The Finn also starts day three in the car before allowing Hamilton to have the afternoon.

Hamilton starts the morning on days two and four before handing over to Bottas after lunch. They are currently the only team to share the drives in this way.

Meanwhile, Felipe Massa will drive the Williams FW40 machine for the first time on the first day of the test before handing over the car to Lance Stroll for the second day.

The Brazilian returns for day three before his Canadian team-mate ends the test.

2017 First Test Schedule (TBA = To Be Announced):

Mercedes: 2/27 – Bottas/Hamilton, 2/28 – Hamilton/Bottas, 3/1 – Bottas/Hamilton, 3/2 – Hamilton/Bottas

Red Bull: TBA

Ferrari: TBA

Force India: 2/27 – Sergio Perez, 2/28 – Esteban Ocon, 3/1 – Alfonso Celis Jr., 3/2 – Perez/Ocon

Williams: 2/27 – Massa, 2/28 – Stroll, 3/1 – Massa, 3/2 – Stroll

McLaren: TBA

Toro Rosso: TBA

Haas: 2/27 – Kevin Magnussen, 2/28 – Magnussen, 3/1 – RomainGrosjean, 3/2 – Grosjean

Renault: TBA

Sauber: TBA

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Bottas, Stroll Confirmed as 2017 Williams Teammates

The worst kept secret in motorsport has finally been announced, with Lance Stroll joining Valtteri Bottas at Williams for the 2017 Formula One season.

Stroll replaces Felipe Massa, who retires from the sport at the end of 2016, with Bottas staying at Williams for a fifth season alongside the young star.

At the age of 18 years, four months, and 27 days by the proposed start date of the 2017 Australian Grand Prix, Stroll will become the second-youngest-ever F1 racer when he makes his debut.

He becomes Canada’s first F1 driver since Jacques Villeneuve left BMW Sauber in 2006 after 12 races, and 14th overall to represent the country in the series.

The 2017 season is the first year since 2009 the team has not had a driver from South America in their ranks. It is the first time in five years they have fielded a rookie since Bottas made his debut at the 2013 Australian GP.

Despite support from his wealthy father, Lawrence, which has already given him a ‘pay driver’ label by some, Lance himself lit up junior formulae, winning the Italian Formula Four Championship with Prema Powerteam in 2014 before finishing fifth in the European Formula Three series in 2015.

He took a second season in F3 this year, dominating by taking 14 race wins and 17 front-row starts from 30 races. The Prema driver ended the season with five straight wins to take 507 points and win the championship, 187 points clear of teammate Maximilian Guenther.

The Canadian says that entering the sport is a personal ambition realized.

“To be racing in Formula One in 2017 is incredible, I can’t thank Williams enough for showing faith in my ability,” he said.

“Racing in F1 was something I dreamt about as a young kid. When I began karting seriously, F1 was then the ultimate goal and especially when I started racing cars in 2014.”

Formula One cars are expected to become harder to drive next year with regulation changes promoting more downforce, but Stroll is taking a calm approach to finding his feet in the sport.

“2017 is going to be a big learning curve for me, but I’m eager to absorb everything Williams can share with me so that I improve. I’ll be taking things on a race-by-race, lap-by-lap basis and hopefully progress with experience like I did when I started [Italian] Formula Four and then [European] Formula Three.”

Deputy team principal Claire Williams is also pleased that Bottas is staying on to help Stroll and the team as the experienced driver of the pair.

Bottas is the first racer since Ralf Schumacher (1999-2005) to spend five years with the team.

“I’m delighted to confirm that Valtteri will be racing for Williams once again next year, and be joined by Lance Stroll,” she said.

“Valtteri is a much-loved member of the team and his talent is unquestionable, so for him to use that experience to help lead the team forward is exciting.

“He has played a pivotal role in the team’s turnaround since 2014 and we are looking forward to continuing the strong relationship we have with him into the future.”

Williams are currently guaranteed to go into the 2017 season with a top-seven finish in the Constructors’ Championship in three successive seasons for the first time since 2003-05.

Meanwhile, Williams have also announced they will use a special chassis name for next season’s car to celebrate their 40th anniversary as a team. Sir Frank Williams set the team up alongside Sir Patrick Head in 1977, going on to create much success. The chassis will be named the FW40 instead of the FW39, which should carry on from this year’s FW38.

EMAIL CAMERON AT cpatersonf1@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Valtteri Bottas and Lance Stroll Rumored to Williams for 2017

Another chapter will be added to the Formula One off-season following the Mexico Grand Prix as Williams will announce their driver line-up for 2017 on Thursday, November 3 at their Grove Headquarters.

According to the rumor mill, it appears Valtteri Bottas will remain with the team, despite interest being shown by Renault, while joined by Canadian rookie Lance Stroll, who will replace the retiring Felipe Massa. Notably, it will mark the first change in their driver line-up since 2014.

Stroll, who was signed to Willams under development at the end of 2015, will join Formula One after capturing the FIA Formula 3 European Championship this year. After scoring multiple victories and championships behind the wheel of a go-kart, the 17-year-old joined the FIA Euro F3 Series in 2015, scoring a victory and 17 top-six finishes in the 33 race schedule. He began 2016 by finishing fifth in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in a Ford Chip Ganassi Racing entered Ford EcoBoost Prototype to become the youngest highest-placed overall finisher in the history of the event. He then followed it up with 11 wins in Euro F3 en route to the championship.

Lance Stroll’s father, Lawrence, told the Montreal Gazette earlier this month, “Lance will be in F1 next year. You can write it in black and white.”

The news was also confirmed by GrandPrix.com with former F1 driver Mika Salo saying, “Lance Stroll will be there, and Williams would probably like to keep Valtteri, but (Lance’s father Lawrence) Stroll has bought half of the team so it may be him who chooses who is in the other car.”

According to Forbes, Lawrence Stroll has a net worth of $2.4 billion.

Williams has been solid this year, currently sitting fifth in the constructors’ standings, despite only one podium finish this year by Bottas with a third in Montreal. Massa has posted 10 top-10s this year, including a best finish of fifth on two different occasions. Meanwhile, Bottas has 14 top-10s, including four top-fives.

With Williams set to announce their line-up next week, it will leave eight unconfirmed seats for 2017 in the F1 paddock – Haas, Sauber and Manor are yet to confirm either driver, while Force India and Renault both have one vacancy.

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