Aston Martin dialled up the steering assist to help Stroll cope with pain in race · RaceFans

Fernando Alonso‘s Bahrain Grand Prix podium may have been big for Aston Martin, but they celebrated team mate Lance Stroll’s sixth place just as much due to the brilliant comeback story behind it.

Two weeks before the season-opener, Stroll was injured in a cycling accident, the details of which weren’t initially shared in full by the team. Stroll was forced to miss the only pre-season test session, where Felipe Drugovich took his place in the Aston Martin AMR23.

The Mercedes-powered car looked impressive in the Bahrain test, and Drugovich told he would make his Formula 1 race debut at the same track if Stroll had not recovered in time. However, despite sustaining two broken wrists and a broken toe, Stroll was indeed able to return.

“My medical team has been incredible,” said Stroll after finishing sixth in the Bahrain Grand Prix. “I have to say a huge thank you to everyone that has helped me over the last two weeks.

Race start, Bahrain International Circuit, 2023
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“The surgeon in Spain, Doctor Amir, without him, it wouldn’t be possible to be here right now. He’s been unbelievable. And my osteopath, Henry, who’s been with me 10 hours a day rehab-ing my wrists, fixing my toe – as much as you can do with toes. There’s a list of people that helped me over the last two weeks.”

Stroll revealed that following his crash doctors initially told him the earliest he might return was the third sound of the season, the Australian Grand Prix at the beginning of next month. He drove with only one hand on the steering wheel at times during practice last weekend, but was able to use both wrists throughout the race.

“I’m feeling a little bit better. The team improved the assist level on the wheel a little bit for me. So it was making it a bit easier,” said Stroll. “Aside from the pain, it was fun,” he said thought, “the last 20 laps, I was grinding it out to the end.”

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Aston Martin’s team principal Mike Krack was particularly impressed by Stroll’s comeback given his limited running was exacerbated by a technical problem with his car during practice.

Stroll took it easy in practice

“We must not forget he had no testing, he had a problem on Friday. Then he had huge stress in qualifying” said Krack. “He did not drive the hard tyres at all because we saved both. He had just no reference about managing.

“So I think we knew in all the hype that we had obviously around the podium and we have also to [tip] our hat for what Lance did today.”

Stroll played him self in carefully at the beginning of the race weekend, said Krack. “He protected himself a little bit on Friday and [tried] not to make any moves that could hamper the race. The focus was obviously on the qualifying and the race but qualifying is very short and this he will always manage.”

The team was prepared to draft Drugovich in if Stroll had found himself unable to drive. “I was not worried because also we had Felipe here on standby, Felipe had tested. So there was no real worry.

“Lance had his staff with him for the recovery and they were very confident and we need to trust them if they say he will manage and we trusted that it can work.”

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Stroll, who has been with the team since its previous guise as Racing Point, was thrilled by the team’s successful start to the podium after team mate Alonso finished third.

Alonso’s podium was a “great result” said Stroll

“I’m really happy for the team today. It’s a great way to start the season. Fernando on the podium, great result, and happy to pick up sixth considering everything that happened over the last two weeks. I couldn’t move, ten days ago I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t move both hands, I was a vegetable pretty much. And I didn’t think I would be here right now.

“I’m still just processing everything, it’s amazing to pick up these points, to drive this car, a great start to the season.”

Stroll spent the rather painful last stint of the race sandwiched between the two Mercedes. Although he said “it feels great” to beat George Russell, he thought getting past Lewis Hamilton and claiming his first top-five finish since 2020 was also possible.

“I think we could have got Hamilton without the Virtual Safety Car. We lost some time there. We were catching him towards the end.

“But my pain was the biggest limiting factor in the last 20 laps. Just turn 10, and places like hairpins, I was struggling to turn in with confidence without the pain. I was just trying to get to the end, but it was still just a lot of fun to drive the car today. A great car.”

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