The pressure is on Williams’ rookie Lance Stroll in the second half of the season, to up his game – and begin to outperform his veteran teammate – of 260 Grand Prix starts, Felipe Massa.
The 18-year-old began his debut year with three-consecutive retirements – brake failure in Australia, contact with Force India’s Sergio Pérez in China and a crash with Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz in Bahrain.
… all of which not only dented his car, but his confidence as well.
But the Canadian, the first to race in Formula 1, since Jacques Villeneuve in 2006, put the start of the season behind him by scoring points – coming home ninth in Montreal.
He then climbed onto the podium in Azerbaijan, keeping it out of the walls in what was a chaotic race – despite Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas pipping him on the line for second.
SOUNDBITE (English) LANCE STROLL, F1 DRIVER, WILLIAMS:
"Yes it was a great weekend for us, it was a great day. Coming into it, I don't think we expected a podium, but it was a crazy race, so much happened – and you know we just had a clean day and took home a solid third place.”
Stroll followed his rostrum visit up with another point in Austria – and while he was out of the points in Great Britain and Hungary, the team has since admitted he’s made a breakthrough in terms of performance.
"There were some very difficult periods, but actually I feel he's cracked it now, and we can only really get better from here," said Williams chief technical officer Paddy Lowe.
But if he’s to prove his potential he’s got to get ahead of Massa – or Paul di Resta, should the Brazilian not be ready for Belgium.
Up to and including Hungary, Stroll has only outqualified Massa once – in Baku. He’s also yet to finish ahead of the Brazilian, when both completed a race. But it’s 23 to 18 on points, closing the gap somewhat.
There’s no doubt Stroll has the potential, having convincingly dominated last year’s FIA Formula 3 European championship. But he will always be considered a second-rate F1 driver unless he consistently shows the form we’ve only seen flashes of so far.
… especially with the extensive testing program he’s had in Williams’ 2014 car, more than any other recent rookie, with tests around the world – and in between races this year.
SOUNDBITE (English) CLAIRE WILLIAMS, DEPUTY TEAM PRINCIPAL, WILLIAMS:
“I'm looking forward to, now we've settled into this season, to see what the remaining races are going to be like for us."