Legendary Canadian Formula 1 driver Jacques Villeneuve may have had his fair share of success behind the wheel, but his recent evaluations of Canadian rookie driver Lance Stroll are proving, very quickly, to be inaccurate.
Stroll became the youngest driver to ever reach the F1 podium after finishing third in Sunday's Azerbaijan Grand Prix at just 18 years and 239 days old. It was Stroll's second top-10 finish in as many races, as he finished ninth at the Canadian Grand Prix just two weeks ago.
Stroll was a few metres away from finishing second, but was passed down the stretch by Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, while Daniel Ricciardo, who drives for Red Bull, finished first.
He became the first Canadian driver to reach the podium since Villeneuve finished third in the German Grand Prix in 2001. Stroll's record-setting result shows a stark contrast to the criticisms he faced from Villeneuve, who recently called Stroll's early struggles on the circuit "one of the worst rookie performances in the history of Formula 1."
"We've seen so many drivers who are amazing until they're 16 or 17, and that's it. They don't go anywhere. The next step just doesn't happen." Villeneuve told Autoweek. "Some drivers just keep getting better, but you can't know that in advance. It's always risky to put someone super young, because you just don't know how good they can be."
Stroll was heavily criticized for not earning a single point while only finishing two of the first six races of his rookie F1 campaign. His recent performances at the Montreal and Azerbaijan Grand Prix, however, have sprung Stroll up to 12th place in the driver's standings with 17 points, just three behind Williams teammate Felipe Massa, whom most deemed as head-and-shoulders better than Stroll through the first part of the season.
Much of the criticism came because Stroll's father Lawrence, a Canadian billionaire and investor, reportedly paid over $80 million to help secure his son a seat with Williams F1 for the 2017 season. If his last two performances are any indication, the young Stroll is more than capable of holding his own with Williams and the middle-of-the-pack drivers on the F1 circuit, despite the slow start, and being the youngest on the circuit.
Villeneuve was a hell of a professional driver, claiming 23 podium finishes during his career. His scouting and talent evaluation abilities, however, appear to have a long way to go to catch up.