Quebec driver Lance Stroll has the qualities to face the pressure of being a Formula 1 driver, says Jacques Villeneuve.
Formula 1 debut of Lance Stroll, at the age of 19, could well be the most discussed subject in the first round of the next season, if only Jacques Villeneuve.
“I can not say if you feel pressure at 18-19 years,” Villeneuve said during an interview at Reuters. The extent of the achievement is not yet realized. It comes later when you understand the global influence of sport. ”
Villeneuve, Formula 1 world champion in 1997, believes that the Montreal driver will be able to resist the pressure as he takes his place in the Williams car driven by Brazilian Felipe Massa, now retired.
“At his age, you still see it as a game, even if it has become a professional job,” continued the 45-year-old from Quebec. He does not have the same pressure as if his job was at stake, or even if it was to decide his career in F1. ”
Stroll won the Formula 3 championship last season, following in the footsteps of another talented rider, Max Verstappen now with the Red Bull F1 team.
Even though the family fortune helped him to go through the stages leading up to Formula One, Williams teammates say without hesitation that he deserved his chance.
Villeneuve, who has already said that money can never be a substitute for talent for success, recognizes that the young 18-year-old has the potential and only time will tell if he can develop it.
“We know he’s fast, but we do not know yet how far his psychological strength can go,” he said. When things get tough, and it will happen during the season, it will be interesting to see his reaction. This is the only unknown element of the equation. ”
Williams is a stable and remains a gateway to F1.
“He will be taken care of and can become a good driver. We’ll see how far he can push his car. He will have the opportunity, “continued Villeneuve.
Stroll was able to familiarize himself somewhat with the team when he was a training driver last year in the same way as Valtteri Bottas was a few years ago.
He spent a lot of time in a simulator and traveled miles on the track at the wheel of a Williams 2014 since last August.
Villeneuve acknowledges that Verstappen, with the success he has achieved since his arrival, has knocked down a few barriers and opened the door to talented young drivers.
For example, Frenchman Esteban Ocon, who beat Verstappen at the F3 championship in 2014 and has just turned 20, will be in command of a Force India car next year.
“The times have changed,” said Villeneuve, who started his career in F1 at the age of 24. Although he did not win the title of the F3, he obtained excellent results. The coaching is different and we no longer need big titles to perform in F1. ”
Jacques Villeneuve, son of the late Gilles, had caused this sensation of freshness with his skill and rebellious attitude in 1996.
He had proved his worth at this high level of competition with, among other things, his victory at 500 miles indianapolis in 1995.
Stroll will be the first Canadian F1 driver since Villeneuve retired in 2006.
“People’s reaction is tangible in Canada. The arrival of such a pilot was expected and I hope that it will be successful, concluded Villeneuve. He has the necessary assets, he only has to adapt to the level of competition of the F1. ”