Williams expecting 'really big step' from Lance Stroll in 2018

Williams believes Lance Stroll can have a "phenomenal" second season in Formula One.

Canadian driver Stroll made his debut aged 18 and, despite a tricky start to his rookie season, managed to secure a podium at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix -- making him the only driver outside of Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull to do so in 2017. Having spent much of that campaign learning circuits he had not raced on before the team is excited to see how he fares with a year of experience under his belt.

"I think that Lance will approach his second season in a completely different place to his first," Williams technical chief Paddy Lowe told ESPN. "He came in very young, 18 years old, a very new environment, new challenge, it's a huge amount of information to manage and use in the intense environment of Formula One racing. So I think at his second season he'll be so much better off and a year older, a year at that age is a really big step."

When asked if he thinks people expected too much from Stroll in his first season, Lowe said: "Yeah, I agree, and people do keep forgetting how young Lance is. I think we've got all the hope and the promise he can have a phenomenal second year and keep building a terrific career in Formula One."

Lowe was speaking at the launch of Williams' 2018 car, the FW41. During the presentation which followed the unveiling of the car he pointed out one of his favourite stats of the year, the fact Stroll had gained more positions on the opening lap than any of his rivals in 2017.

Lowe thinks that shows Stroll is more than capable of holding his own in racing situations.

"He knows all the tracks, he knows his way around, so he can be hugely more confident and build on the things he did last year, which were already some great successes, some very notable statistics. My favourite, the one less talked about, is his first-lap performance. I had that feeling all year, just objectively, that he was looking really strong in that aspect but I was pleased to see the formal calculation that he'd achieved the most overtakes in lap one confirmed that.

"It's a terrific statistic, as we know there are many drivers who can get a great grid spot and then throw it away at the first corner in silly incidents. Lance has shown himself able to fight and yet not step over the line and throw it all away."

Stroll has gone from a rookie to his team's most experienced race driver, as he is joined by Russian rookie Sergey Sirotkin for the new season.