Stroll first Canadian to reach F1 podium since Villeneuve

Third-place finisher Lance Stroll fist pumps gleefullyLance Stroll turned his Formula One rookie season around in a big way at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, finishing third on Sunday for his first podium finish in his eighth career race. The 18-year-old Canadian is the second-youngest F1 driver to reach the podium, and he came very close to finishing second in a crazy race that featured numerous safety cars and a red flag stoppage.

Things didn’t look good for Stroll when he didn’t finish any of his first three races. He finally scored his first career points two weeks ago by finishing ninth at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, but according to Canadian racing legend Jacques Villeneuve, Stroll was putting on “the worst rookie performance” in F1 history. By reaching the podium in Baku, Stroll did something no Canadian has done since Villeneuve in 2001, which could lead Villeneuve to revise his assessment of the youngster.

Stroll qualified eighth for Sunday’s race, but worked his way up the field by avoiding the numerous collisions that occurred and the resulting debris that caused many tire punctures and forced the race to be halted under a red flag while the track was cleared. He found himself in a podium position after race leader Lewis Hamilton was forced to pit to fix a loose headrest and championship points leader Sebastian Vettel was forced to serve a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for dangerous driving after colliding with Hamilton while the race was under a safety car.

The mayhem allowed Daniel Ricciardo, who had dropped all the way to 17th place in the first few laps after some debris caused his brakes to overheat, to take the lead, with Stroll a few seconds behind. Entering the last 10 laps of the race, Stroll had a sizeable gap over third-place Valtteri Bottas, who was a lap down early on after colliding with Kimi Raikkonen on the second turn of the opening, but Bottas ate away at Stroll’s advantage by more than a second per lap, closing to within a second on the final lap. Bottas passed Stroll in the final moments of the race, earning second place by a tenth of a second, while Ricciardo cruised to his first victory of 2017.