Aston Martin team boss Mike Krack conceded that the chips fell the right way for Lance Stroll in Las Vegas, but the Canadian also owed his remarkable run to P5 to the team’s inspired choice to save an extra set of hard tyres for race day.
Stroll failed to make the final top-ten shootout in qualifying on Friday, a setback which, compounded with a five-place grid penalty for overtaking Carlos Sainz under the yellow flags in FP3, sent the Aston driver all the way back to P19 on the last row of the grid.
But an incredible opening lap during which he steered clear of the commotion at the first corner and picked off half a dozen of his rivals saw him gain ten positions and move up to ninth.
He then strategically took advantage of an early Virtual Safety Car to ditch his soft tyres for a set of hards, falling back to P15 and again overhauling more than ten cars to run as high as second as the pit stop rotations kicked off.
Stroll finally pitted from third on lap 26, again during a Safety Car period. While he fell back to P8, the Canadian continued to put his head down during his final stint, making good use of his second set of hards and holding off Sainz at the checkered flag to clock in sixth on the road and fifth in the final classifications thanks to a time penalty handed to George Russell.
Looking back on his driver’s spirited drive in Sin City, Krack acknowledged Stroll’s bout of luck but the Aston boss also emphasized the importance of having an extra set of hards at Stroll’s disposal.
“It was a good race but it was also a good race two weeks ago,” commented Krack. “Yeah, it was quite good.
“I think the key today was to have a good understanding of the tyres and the strategy. It was always the plan to do something we did there.
“Now obviously there was a bit of luck involved in the beginning to make a lot of positions.
“But I think all in all, the key today when you look at who had how many hards left and who didn’t, I think you see in the ranking that the one-stop did not work with the exception of Esteban [Ocon].
“I think everybody who did not have two [Hards] went out with one.”
Assessing his early laps in the race, Stroll noted that he wasn’t exactly an outlier as he rushed into the pitlane under the VSC regime. He did, however, acknowledge the benefit he gained from his incredible opening lap.
“I think a lot of guys kind of pitted under the Virtual Safety Car at the beginning or the Safety Car. So, I don’t think that’s when the race came to us,” he said.
“I think, you know, lap one was really good, gained like 10 positions with a lot of guys going wide in turn one and then from there this really good pace in the car today. I felt like we were kind of on the front foot attacking through the race, which was fun.”
Stroll’s pace in Saturday’s Vegas spectacular came as a surprise in light of Aston relatively downbeat performance in qualifying. The Canadian was asked how different his AMR23 had behaved in the race compared to qualifying.
“Not super different, but I think we’ve just generally been on more of a Sunday car, this year compared to Saturdays, which I think it’s been a trend,” he said.
“So yesterday [was] tricky to fight with some cars like Haas and Alpine and even Alfa Romeo and then today just a way quicker car than them.
“So that’s been a bit of a trend I think throughout the year, just a very good car on Sunday and a little bit sometimes a good car on Saturday, but generally sometimes a little bit more difficult on Saturday and they’re much better on Sunday.
“So I felt like that was again the case today.”
Stroll’s low key 2023 campaign and his average deficit to his Aston teammate Fernando Alonso triggered all sorts of speculation regarding his future.
But a pair of five-place finishes – in Brazil and in Las Vegas – have gone a long way towards improving his stock, and his confidence.
“You know, the results are coming and then you get more confident,” argued Krack. “He was out in Q2 yesterday but it was not a drama. He builds this confidence [through] these things that you cannot measure really.
“He managed the tyres really well today, passed some people so I think all in all, when you put all of this together, the results come.”