Formula One driver Lance Stroll, whose father spent a reported $80 million to help get him onto the Williams F1 team for 2017, will join Force India next year in place of Esteban Ocon, who has a development contract with the dominant Mercedes F1 team. Stroll’s father bought Force India a few months ago.
Stroll joining Force India means a lot of things, one of them being that the 20-driver F1 field for next season is all locked up. Ocon is out of a full-time race car for 2019 and moving into a reserve role with Mercedes, while Stoll will become teammates with Force India driver Sergio Perez as part of a “long-term deal.”
After Stoll’s father—clothing tycoon Lawrence Stroll, who ranked No. 887 on the 2018 Forbes billionaires list—bought the struggling Force India team while it was in administration, the Telegraph wrote that Lance Stroll wasn’t a fan of the “rich-kid caricatures” of him.
He earned his spot in F1, he told the Telegraph in a story from August, which was the same month the news came out that his dad bought Force India:
“I felt that the way I was criticised was not entirely fair,” he says. “Obviously I’m struggling right now in a difficult car, but I have done a lot to prove that I’m not here just because of my family’s wealth.
“I won championships and races and earned my super-licence to get to Formula One. Of course, I was very fortunate to be in the position I was in, but at the same time I delivered. I think I deserve a bit more credit.
“In Monza last year, I had a qualifying performance in the rain similar to what Esteban produced here in Spa. I had a podium finish [in Baku] and I won other points as well.”
As for Ocon? Sure, he’s out of a ride or whatever, but even before he officially and inevitably lost the spot on the Force India F1 team, he just didn’t get it. He’s from a different background, Lance Stroll said in August.
From the Telegraph:
“Drivers don’t always know all the pieces of the puzzle behind the scenes,” Stroll says. “Potentially, my father buying this team can make it a much better team, much more competitive. It’s not, in my eyes, a big negative.
“From Esteban’s point of view, it’s triggered towards me, because my father’s involved in Force India. Drivers from certain backgrounds will have their view on how things should be. Drivers with financial backing will think otherwise.”
(Reports in August were that Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel asked Ocon in casual conversation who got his ride for 2019, and Ocon said, via Reuters UK, “Have a guess. The one who bought it.” A month later while Ocon was in talks with the Williams team, ESPN reported, he condemned the nepotism comments against the Strolls, saying Lance Stroll works “hard, as much as I do, to be in F1.” Quite the contrast over the course of that month.)
Regardless of how everyone actually feels about each other, Ocon will have an entire year to think on his views about “how things should be,” like Lance Stroll alluded to in August. He won’t have roughly 21 F1 races to compete in, after all.
Speaking of competition: If you thought five-time champion Lewis Hamilton was the winningest entity currently in F1, you were wrong. The real winners are nepotism and money. They always are.