Written by Caitlyn Gordon, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
Hype for the 2023 Formula 1 season had fans and teams counting down until the start of pre-season testing on 23rd of February. After 99 long days without any on-track action, it was finally back on our screens, and fans all over the world were all ready to watch the 20 drivers test their new cars, their drives for the next 266 days. However, in a sudden turn of events, just before testing began, Aston Martin announced the news of Felipe Drugovich replacing Lance Stroll for the pre-season test. Stroll had an accident, and his injury was expected to take a while to heal, casting a question mark over his presence for the first race of the season. The sequence of events following his crash made for a truly inspirational story, one of perseverance and determination.
Naturally, there was widespread speculation around Stroll’s absence from pre-season testing, and the subsequent injuries he suffered, which became clear a few days later, when Stroll himself revealed them. The Canadian fractured both his wrists, and broke one of his toes while on a bicycle ride in Spain. A few days before the first race of the season, it was still rumored that Drugovich would be taking Stroll's place in Bahrain, but Formula 1 released a statement saying Stroll had been cleared medically, and would be racing at the weekend just 12 days after his surgery.
The first practice session of the season finally rolled around, and all 20 cars and drivers were on the track, getting a feel of their new cars and adapting to the conditions on track. During some onboard footage, it was shown how Stroll was dealing with his injury, and protecting his right hand during Turn 1. Stroll was putting more of his energy and weight into his left hand, thus pushing his left hand more to turn his steering wheel. Stroll's engineer Ben Michell gave Stroll a message saying “Lance we need to compromise 1 and have a better line for 2. So, compromise 1 for 2” and Stroll then told Michell “I can’t man, I can’t, with the hands.” After practice, a worrying image circulated, showing Stroll requiring assistance from his engineers to climb out of his car, and this was when a lot of fans took to Twitter, and expressed their concerns regarding Stroll's health, and were worried he would hurt himself even more by racing.
Qualifying saw Stroll not only finish in an amazing 8th place, but it also showcased how fantastic he was in setting times, and keeping consistent by staying in the top 10, while recovering from three significant injuries. After qualifying, Stroll told the media how he was “driving through the pain” and he also addressed the speculation around his readiness to race that weekend. He told Formula One that he was “feeling alright, a little stiff, but it was overall okay in the car.”
As the lights went out for the first race of the season, on Turn 1 of the opening lap, Stroll almost ended his race early, when he slammed on the brakes and tapped his teammate, Fernando Alonso’s rear-right tyre. Stroll was dropping positions, but battled strongly to get back up the order, and provided some great entertainment for fans when he battled against George Russell for 6th place.
A few days after the race, Stroll posted a heart-warming video about his injuries, and his speedy recovery in a short period of time. In the caption, he stated how his medical team “believed he was going to not only miss going to testing, but also the first few races.” There was not much hope for Stroll to be racing in Bahrain, however, through determination and a lot of strength, he began training his hands and got them to start regaining full functioning, and started doing some of the daily tasks he was struggling to do.
Stroll also mentioned how he was told there was a glimmer of hope that he could be back racing in Jeddah, if he worked hard enough, and that is what he did. He said, “To this day I am convinced the urgency Dr. Mir showed to me helped get me to Bahrain.” The video goes on to show Stroll in recovery, and the amount of work he put in to mend his hands properly.
The Instagram reel is a touching video that demonstrates how hardwork can really go a long way. It is a lesson to everyone to always keep going, even if the light at the end of the tunnel is almost out of sight. It was brilliant to witness Stroll in action at Bahrain, and the wait is on to see how he performs in Jeddah!