Lance Stroll was told the third round of the season in Melbourne was a realistic race to return to Formula 1 for before the pain from his broken wrists and toe stopped him catching Lewis Hamilton and limited him to sixth place in the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Canadian suffered injuries during a training accident that ruled him out of pre-season testing but managed to return to drive the car for the first time on Friday in FP1. It transpired Stroll had two broken wrists – requiring surgery on one – as well as a broken toe, and despite racing less than two weeks since the surgery he was able to split the Mercedes pair to back-up team-mate Fernando Alonso’s third place.
“It’s a great way to start the season with Fernando on the podium – a great result,” Stroll said. “Yeah I’m happy to pick up sixth considering everything that happened over the last two weeks. I couldn’t move and ten days ago I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t use both hands.
“I was a vegetable pretty much and I didn’t think I would be here right now and I’m still just processing everything so it’s amazing to pick up these points, to drive this car. A great start to the season.
“It feels great. Great to beat (George) Russell. I think we could have got Hamilton without the VSC, we lost some time there. We were catching him towards the end but my pain was the biggest limiting factor in the last twenty laps. Just Turn 10 and the hairpins I was just struggling to just turn in with confidence without the pain. I was just trying to get to the end but it was still a lot of fun to drive the car. Great car.”
Given the remarkable recovery from the injuries to be able to complete a race distance competitively, Stroll says a lot of credit needs to go to the professionals who have been working with him, having been told the earliest he could target a return was Melbourne four weeks later.
“My medical team has been incredible I have to say a huge thank you to everyone that has helped me over the last two weeks from the surgeon in Spain, Doctor (Xavier) Mir, without him this wouldn’t be possible, he’s been unbelievable.
“My osteopath Henry who has been with me ten hours a day rehabbing my to. Teaching me how to – well, fixing my toe as much as you can do, you can’t do much with toes but as much as possible! Rob Madden back in the UK who had a lot to do with it, Roena… There’s a list of people that helped me over the last two weeks.
“Fourteen days ago exactly since my accident. I had doctors saying maybe Australia. Maybe. It was just insane.
“(The plan now is) keep rehabbing, I have twelve days now to keep working on my wrist but I’m feeling a lot better every day. My right wrist is feeling really solid, the one I got surgery on. The left one I think is just time. A couple of hairline fractures so it should be better. My toe is feeling better every day.”
It could have been very different for Stroll, though, as he hit team-mate Alonso at Turn 4 on the opening lap and nearly took both drivers out of the race just a matter of seconds into the action.
“Yeah really lucky, really lucky. I braked late to stay in front of George. Fernando went for it, cut back on Hamilton in Turn 4 and just really bad timing we came together. So really lucky to get away with that one.”