Behind Lance Stroll’s Brilliant Bahrain Drive

Lance Stroll’s start to the 2023 season was anything but normal, driving in Bahrain with multiple broken bones. ATRL’s Sarah Roberts reviews the Aston Martin driver’s miraclous recovery and ensuing on-track performance.

Written by Sarah Roberts

March 25, 2023

Just four days before pre-season testing, the news broke that Lance Stroll would miss testing due to an unspecified cycling injury that only happened a few days prior. 

 

Questions quickly arose about whether Stroll would even participate in the Bahrain Grand Prix the next week. From what was known, it looked like the 24-year-old might not be ready to compete in the Bahrain Grand Prix and perhaps even Saudi Arabia. It seemed Aston Martin, for the second year in a row, would begin the season with a reserve driver.

 

The day before Free Practice 1, a little over a week after the accident, Aston Martin suddenly announced Lance Stroll would be driving in the Bahrain Grand Prix. 

Stroll in his hospital bed (Photo via @lance_stroll on Instagram)

The nature of his injuries was now more widely known, and it seemed outrageous to put him in the car. Stroll suffered hairline fractures in both his wrists: breaks in the scaphoid bone, the bone at the base of the thumb that is mainly responsible for motion, stability, and grip. All essential aspects of holding and controlling a steering wheel. With a displacement also in his left wrist, the eight little carpal bones connecting the hand to the forearm are shifted out of place and require surgery to reposition them. Finally, Stroll also suffered from a broken big toe in his right foot, which inhibited the strength in his feet and hindered his usage of them in important aspects of driving, like being able to break, for example. In total, his recovery time should have been at least between 8-12 weeks for a complete recovery. In the best-case scenario, his doctors predicted he might potentially make the Australian Grand Prix. 

 

Just 12 days before race day, Stroll underwent extensive surgery on both his wrists, and two metal pins were secured in his right wrist to keep its structure. Recovery was brutal, with progress being “slow,” according to Stroll via his Instagram. In the Instagram post, he spoke highly of his medical team, crediting their “incredible” work in creating a rigorous rehabilitation program for him and the “urgency” of his doctor, MotoGP traumatology specialist Dr. Xavier Mir, in getting him to Bahrain. 

Stroll with Dr. Xavier Mir (Photo via @lance_stroll on Instagram)

His performance in practice on race weekend was far from reassuring, as it was clear he was unfamiliar with the car and in pain. Expectations were low going into qualifying, but Stroll gave an unbelievable performance. Qualifying eighth in a car he had not tested in and had first driven only a few days prior was a mammoth effort in itself. Then on race day, finishing sixth, two places ahead of where he started with two fractured wrists freshly operated on and a broken big toe was, in a word, unbelievable. 

 

During a race, drivers can push against around five g-forces, which equates to about 29 kilograms (65 pounds.) Stroll would have constantly been straining against that force to maintain control over the car, all with fragile wrists. Stroll even admitted in the post-race interview that “a few tears” slipped out mid-race due to the exertion of it. Stroll finished well within the points, a place ahead of the ‘best of the rest’ slot, had moved up two places and performed some beautiful overtakes, including on the Mercedes of George Russell and the Alfa-Romeo of Valtteri Bottas. 

 

Stroll’s performance, however, has still garnered some concerns over the ethicality and safety of putting a driver with injuries as severe as his in the car. Stroll drove phenomenally, but was Aston Martin risking the safety of Stroll and the other drivers? 

 

The contact between the two Aston Martins in turn four of the opening lap could have ended much worse, putting both cars, or at the very least Alonso’s, out of the race. With Stroll struggling so much to control the car, especially in the numerous corners of the Bahrain circuit, there was too much potential for so much to go very wrong. Lance was in so much pain, his wrists far from healed, and the question does need to be asked, has racing in Bahrain hindered Lance’s future recovery, and will his future performances be affected down the track by this decision? 

 

It is honestly hard to tell. His performance showed he was more than capable of driving whilst in pain, but if his recovery is hindered by constantly racing  throughout the season, the repercussions of Bahrain may become more obvious. If it does worsen, we may see the number 18 Aston Martin tumble down the order. However, as a guest on the ‘Pitstop’ podcast, Alonso’s mechanic, Mikey Brown, expressed his confidence in Stroll as a “machine.” Brown spoke of the Canadian as a high-caliber driver whose season only looks promising.

 

Regardless, it should certainly be acknowledged that Stroll performed brilliantly, certainly silencing critics for the time being. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season pans out for Aston Martin. In particular for Lance, and what the remainder of his performances in the car will look like. Maybe some more podiums or even a race win are on the horizon.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah lives in Melbourne, where as a child she would fall asleep to the sound of the illegal drag car races that happened nearby. Quickly this became a love for motorsports, beginning with Rallying and NASCAR but soon branching into the Formula series. Sarah is hoping to end up as a motorsport journalist once she finishes her studies.

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