Why Lance Stroll must hit the ground running if he is to follow in the footsteps of Max Verstappen

Stroll ended Williams' pre-season test early after crashing out of Wednesday's session and has already let valuable track time slip through his fingers

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The term ‘baptism of fire’ is used sparingly in Formula One, given the literal connotations that it has in a sport where fiery accidents are never far away, but it’s an appropriate one for Williams rookie Lance Stroll.

The 18-year-old Canadian endured a difficult start to life in the top bracket after his crash on Wednesday during day three of the first pre-season test at Barcelona forced Williams to abandon their plans for day four.

Stroll spun out of Tuesday’s afternoon session, damaging the front ring as he ran uncontrollably across a gravel trap, before ending Wednesday in the tyre barrier on the exit of turn six, damaging the brand new FW 40 chassis in the process. All things considered, it’s probably not the start he had in mind in an attempt to impress his new employers.

"Following a thorough inspection overnight some damage to the FW40 chassis was discovered and therefore, on safety grounds, the team will not run the car today,” Williams confirmed on Thursday morning.” A second chassis will be prepared at the track this afternoon as originally planned, with the team aiming to be back on track for the second test next week starting on Tuesday 7 March."

Stroll needn’t let this incident get to him, given it’s only pre-season with plenty of time to make up for the shunt awaiting ahead. However, there’s a quick lesson here that will hold Stroll in good stead in the future.

Formula One isn’t a sport where you can rest on your laurels. Max Verstappen has already shown what can be achieved by grabbing the bull by the horns and seizing an opportunity. His predecessor, Daniil Kvyat, displays the complete opposite.

Kvyat got the opportunity of a lifetime when he was called into Red Bull in 2014 to replace the departing Sebastian Vettel, and lasted the best part of 15 months. Too many crashes, too many poor performances, and one too many run-ins with the aforementioned four-time world champion led to his demotion to the Toro Rosso outfit, and there was the general feeling in the paddock that Kvyat had done well to retain his seat there this season.

For Stroll, there is even more pressure to deliver. Kvyat had the benefit of gaining experience with Toro Rosso before moving up to a team that were competing at the front of the field, where as Stroll needs to hit the ground running in a Williams outfit that isn’t quite where it was in 2015. If they are to rival the top three teams on the grid in 2017 in the form of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, Williams need Stroll to step up and deliver something special, given that not so long ago his teammate, Felipe Massa, had said his goodbyes and was riding off into the sunset.

Stroll needs to maximise his chances, which means seizing every lap when it comes to track time before the curtain raiser in Melbourne in three weeks’ time. The fact that Massa’s 103 laps on Monday nearly matched Stroll’s 110 laps across Tuesday and Wednesday shows he is already letting valuable track time slip through his fingers, and the more time he spends in the garage, the less he is showing the world he has what it takes to be a top level F1 driver.

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Stroll's crash ended Williams' test campaign a day early (Getty)

Stroll also missed out on running in simulated wet conditions, with a tanker lapping the Barcelona track on Thursday while dumping water out the back of it to recreate the type of weather commonly seen each season at the likes of Spa, Silverstone and Canada where rain is never far away. With no more scheduled wet running during the second test in Barcelona – where rain will be unlikely – Stroll faces going head first into unchartered territory the first time it rains this season.

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Stroll will be the second youngest driver in Formula One's history (Getty)

With Stroll believed to be on a one-year deal with Williams, his future is far from secure, and he will need to find his feet quickly if he harbours ambitions of remaining on the grid with Williams beyond the end of the season. Given the pressure already on his very young shoulders, it’s no wonder he came unstuck in his first two days behind the wheel.

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