Lance Stroll has railed against accusations made by former teammate Felipe Massa that his Williams team put money before talent in finalizing its 2018 driver line-up.
Massa was forced to retire from the sport when Williams made clear it wasn’t interested in retaining his services this season, and his seat was eventually filled by 22-year-old rookie Sergey Sirotkin.
Sirotkin and Stroll both bring significant financial backing to the independent British squad, and Massa inferred in the British press that the team’s poor start to the season could be traced to a money-first mentality.
But Stroll rejected the Brazilian’s claims, pointing instead to deficiencies in the car for Williams’s pointless start to the year.
“First of all, Felipe’s not here,” Stroll said. “He’s gone, he’s retired.
“Last time I checked, I finished one position behind Felipe [in the 2017 championship], and not really using Felipe as a reference; using myself as a reference.
“I look at where I was at stages last year when the car could do it – in China I was in Q3, in other races, many races, I was scoring points.
“It’s not like I can’t do it; it’s not possible. The problem is that with a really competitive and good race we are P14, P13. Last year we were comfortably in the points many times. That’s how I look at it.”
Williams has overhauled its aerodynamic philosophy for 2018 with the intention of trading straight-line speed for cornering performance, but the FW41 rolled out of the garage lacking in both areas, with the team so far at a loss to explain why.
“Unfortunately we haven’t recovered enough of the cornering speed to compensate for that straight-line speed this year,” Stroll said. “We’ve lost a good chunk in our strong point and we have not gained enough on our weak point.”
But the Canadian is optimistic work completed over the Chinese Grand Prix weekend will enable him to put in a more competitive performance in Azerbaijan, where he scored his debut podium last season in a chaotic race on the Baku streets.
“We’ve had a bit of downtime over the last couple of weeks to understand some of our problems,” he explained. “I think coming into this weekend we can take a bit of a different direction with the car and the set-up, and hopefully that will make things a little bit better.
“We’re aiming to cure some of those problems, and if we can do that, I definitely believe we can be much more competitive.
“There’s no reason why we can’t score points here in Baku.”