Lawrence Stroll appears to secretly know how to run an F1 team
Aston Martin have all the puzzle pieces

Lawrence Stroll appears to secretly know how to run an F1 team

25 May - 08:02 Last update: 26 May - 15:37

Buying an F1 team as the father of an F1 driver causes a lot of displeasure among fans. Whereas Lance Stroll has yet to shed the image of a "pay-driver", Lawrence Stroll shows that he is not just about his son. Already hugely successful in business, the Canadian billionaire is showing himself to be a very smart guy in F1 too.

Force India's downfall

In mid-2018, Force India sat on the precipice when team owner Vijay Mallya could no longer cough up the money. He got into trouble with the authorities in India. Led by Sergio Perez, the team ended up in administration, and Lawrence Stroll bought the team with a group of investors. He saved this team from ruin, but in the eyes of fans it was mostly about buying an F1 team for his son.

Of course, Esteban Ocon's seat went straight to Stroll Junior, and the team transformed into Racing Point in 2019. The better of the two drivers was retained with Sergio Perez. The inferior season of 2018 appeared to foreshadow things to come. Although investors pumped a lot of money into the team, they couldn't match the strong performances of 2016 and 2017 (fourth in the constructors' championship) in their first year. They finished seventh in 2019.

Stroll demanded more from the team, and technical director Andrew Green and his team saw the solution. Mercedes' championship-winning car was almost recreated, and they became competitive in 2020. However, the pink Mercedes was viewed with suspicion by the competition and eventually penalised. Despite points deductions and penalties, Racing Point finished fourth in the 2020 Constructors' World Championship.

A star driver alongside Lance

In late 2020, Stroll senior demonstrated his ambition for the first time. Everyone expected him to find a driver Lance Stroll could beat when Perez was shown the door despite a contract extension. Instead, however, they selected Sebastian Vettel. Under the new Aston Martin name, Stroll had a great selling point to drag in the four-time world champion as his team's flagship driver.

Vettel decided to retire at the end of 2022. Stroll junior, who started his seventh season in F1 in 2023, could also have been seen as a front-runner. Yet father Lawrence smelt his opportunity with two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and bought in the Spaniard as the big man. A multi-year contract for the flamboyant driver, who leaves no stone unturned by Stroll in the first races.

Lawrence knows what it takes to get to the top. He showed that in business by investing in brands such as Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors and Asprey & Garrard. Significant investments that, in addition to the earnings with his company Sportswear Holdings, made him an estimated worth of US$3.6 billion according to Forbes in 2023.

Yet there were fears that Lawrence would have a blind spot for his son in F1. The latter seems to have a seat for life with the team because his father is the owner. Lance, however, cannot carry the team, and his father is remarkably realistic enough to see that. First, there was Perez, then Vettel and now Alonso. Drivers who really didn't make Stroll look good but did make the team better.

Right decisions for Aston Martin

Besides the line-up of drivers, the 63-year-old businessman also shows he knows what an F1 team needs. He invested a whopping £200 million in a new factory, with which he hopes to eventually compete with Red Bull Racing, Mercedes and Ferrari. The premises are due for completion during the 2023 F1 season.

The building alone will not get you there, as the people are perhaps even more important. There, too, Stroll was rightly brutal. Otmar Szafnauer did not last long with his boss, but Mike Krack functions well as team boss. He set the direction and plucked Dan Fallows away from Red Bull Racing as technical director. Whether copied from Red Bull or not, Fallows' arrival has done Aston Martin a lot of good in terms of performance. Numerous other engineers from Red Bull and Mercedes are added to that, and you can see what they are up to at Aston Martin.

However, Stroll's latest and most impressive deal is with Honda. The Japanese engine team have struck gold by blowing off the deal with Red Bull Racing. Ford are now sitting on the front row in 2026, while Honda had to look for a new partner now that they wanted to return. A link with McLaren would be the most obvious based on the name, but Aston Martin walks away with the deal.

This very deal shows how well Stroll understands F1. He was made fun of because he would buy a team for his son, but Lawrence has looked at the formula for success: a factory with all the resources, an exclusive engine deal, a top technical man to develop the car and a top driver plus a second man. That his son is the second man in this story does not matter to the solid businessman. He wants to be successful in F1, and his son needs to work hard enough for a title himself.

The deal with Honda is a perfect example and the last piece of the puzzle. Because they start later on the engine, maybe Honda won't be perfect from 2026, but it ensures that Aston Martin become a factory team. Only that way can you compete with Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, Alpine and Audi. Whereas they are asleep at McLaren and, as a Mercedes customer, will probably never come close to winning a title, Aston Martin have all the puzzle pieces in place. Now it is a matter of time and talent before it all comes to fruition. At least one thing has become clear: Lawrence Stroll is secretly quite a clever man.