Canadian Lance Stroll "very satisfied" with strides made in F1 season

Racing Point driver Lance Stroll, of Canada, steers his car during the first free practice at the Formula One Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain, Friday, Dec. 4, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-POOL, Hamad Mohammed

Canada's Lance Stroll started the Formula One season hoping to end a run of three largely frustrating seasons on the circuit.

He enters this week's 2020 finale feeling "very satisfied" with his year as a whole.

"I think I proved a lot to myself this year, which I needed in this sport for a long time," Stroll said Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Montreal returned to the podium this season for the first time since finishing third as a rookie at the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Stroll was third in September at the Italian GP, earned his first career pole at last month's Turkish GP and finished third last week at the Sakhir GP.

He enters this week's season finale at Abu Dhabi in 10th place in the overall standings and his Racing Point BWT Mercedes team is third in the constructor standings.

"We are where we are with one race left and whatever happens will happen," Stroll said. "But I know we have a strong package and we've just got to do our thing this weekend."

Speaking on an end-of-season video call with Canadian media, Stroll said he had a "great year in many ways," although there were challenges along the way.

Chief among them was a bout with COVID-19 that sidelined him for a month. Stroll said he couldn't exercise for a two-week period, lost weight and felt sluggish when he eventually returned.

"I think just getting back in the car, getting back into the flow and the groove, it wasn't so straightforward," he said. "It took me took me an event or two to really get my A-game back and feel completely on top of the car again."

Stroll has mixed feelings on his results over the campaign. He said he was pleased with his first-half performance but feels there were some missed opportunities at times too.

"I think there (was) a bit of a rough patch there for five or six races where we didn't really capitalize and we didn't score the points that we deserved with the car we had," he said.

"So a part of me is frustrated by that but at the same time, to see the potential ... I think that as a team we will only grow and that makes me very excited going into next year."

Stroll showed flashes of his potential early in his career but generally posted mediocre results. He felt part of that came from "being in a kind of average car," and noted that it affected his confidence.

"I think this year I proved a lot to myself," Stroll said. "That was something that I needed for a long time is to just sit in a competitive car, fight up at the front, and have the opportunity to score podiums on a more consistent basis and qualify up at the front.

"I think that's just been a big weight off the shoulders in many ways."

Practice sessions are set for Friday and Saturday morning at the Abu Dhabi GP. Qualifying goes Saturday afternoon and the race is scheduled for Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 10, 2020.

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