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Stroll’s impossible miracle in Bahrain

The Bahrain Grand Prix was a ode to motorsport. The 2023 Formula 1 season started with a bang, with Verstappen and Red Bull unstoppable, and with Fernando Alonso risen from its ashes thanks to Aston Martin. However, the real miraculous story of the weekend, perhaps of the entire season, was that of his teammate Lance Stroll, sixth in Sakhir, between the two Mercedes.

The 24-year-old Canadian driver, son of the owner of the team he runs for (Lawrence Stroll), has had to put up with it since his arrival at the ‘Great Circus’ in 2017 the eternal reproach of being the billionaire ‘daddy’s son’ Talentless who competes in the premier class of motorsports for ‘plug’, despite having achieved his first podium finish in his first two years at Williams. Therefore, put into perspective, its exhibition in Bahrain had even more relevance coming from where it came from.

Alonso’s young teammate suffered a bike accident on February 18 while training in Spain, suffering fractures of both wrists, the dislocation of his right wrist, and the fracture of the big toe of his right foot. Now Stroll himself has recounted in an open letter to his followers on social networks what his recovery process was like to get to the first race of the year, and has shared an illustrative video to show how it has been.

Alonso and Hamilton, hand to hand in Sakhir.  (Photo by Gongora/NurPhoto)

Both his medical team and the driver himself were realistic, and they ruled out both the pre-season tests and the first races of the year. “The most inopportune moment to get injured“According to Stroll, who underwent successful surgery on his right wrist by Dr. Javier Mir (the same doctor who operated on Marc Márquez twice between 2018 and 2020) just 48 hours after the accident, 12 days from start of the World Cup.

“After the first intervention, the doctor assured me that I could be back for Jeddah if he worked hard, and with a bit of luck, being optimistic, he might even racing in Bahrain, even though it was a long shot” Stroll explains in the text, in which he also admits that he is convinced that “the urgency” with which he was operated on “was essential to be able to run” in Sakhir.

“Unfortunately, the work was not done yet. Doctor Mir explained to me that the fractures of the left hand and wrist, as well as the one of the foot, could not be treated surgically, and that I should opt for a much more conservative treatment to recover and heal,” says the promising North American pilot.

At first, Stroll acknowledges having needed permanent help “even for the most basic daily tasks at home“, which makes it even more incredible that he was in a car less than two weeks later, and competing side by side with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton. The complete healing of his bones became his “full-time job”a “slow process” that little by little was giving results.

“I started to feel a little better day by day, until on the fourth day, when the cast was removed, the possibilities of racing in Bahrain materialized. My medical team designed a rehabilitation program that required a lot of hard work, persistence and perseverance to help me regain mobility and strength in my wrists,” says Stroll, who had to miss the entire pre-season test.

The Brazilian replaced him momentarily Philip Drugovichwho was testing the AMR23 to help Alonso and the rest of the team to test, try and analyze the new car, and to start filming in a Formula 1, since Aston Martin could not afford not to have a replacement for Stroll for the first race of the year, especially in such a promising season for the British team, even though it was a ‘rookie’.

Fortunately for the Canadian, despite not having driven a single kilometer on board the AMR23, the deadlines were shortening by leaps and bounds and he was able to drive in the first practice session on friday in the Bahrain Grand Prix, also showing a more than competitive performance given his delicate situation, although still far from a master like Fernando Alonso.

In fact, there was a radio in Free Practice 2 that perfectly illustrated Stroll’s physical condition behind the wheel of the Aston Martin. His engineer asked him to change the way he approached, entered and exited turn 2 of the Sakhir route, to which the Canadian replied, with evident resignation, that “hand pain” prevented him from turning the wheel correctly to make corrections and abrupt changes of line.

Ticket sales website for the Spanish GP with all seats sold out for the entire weekend.

Thus, came the race on Sunday, after having qualified as eighth on Saturday. The last of the eight best cars at this start of the World Cup, which gave a ‘master class’ of endurance, resistance and courage in the race. His start was not ideal, yes, and his injury was noted in the first corners of the track, touching his own partner from behind and costing Alonso the position with both Mercedes.

“It was a very difficult moment, it could all have ended there for the team. I was on the inside of the corner trying to stay in front of Russell by braking very late, and Fernando raced to the inside. We touched but got lucky. The contact made my wrists will ‘catch fire’. I spilled some tears of pain and anger… but we both stayed on track, we dodged the ‘fratricidal suicide” Stroll described the touch with Alonso.

Even so, his pace and that of Aston Martin were beyond doubt. Alonso was third, with great self-sufficiency, and despite the suffering, Stroll was able to finish sixthsurpassing Russell on the track and demonstrating that the AMR23 has arrived to compete, placing the brand located in Silverstone as second in the Constructors’ World Championship after the first date.

However, the Canadian driver himself admitted after the race that he had considered retiring due to pain: “If I hadn’t been in the points, I would have abandoned 20 laps from the end. I suffered, but I gritted my teeth thinking about these points and what they meant after the craziest two weeks of my life.”

Alonso showers Verstappen and Checo Pérez with champagne.

At the end of the race, the party in Aston Martin was wonderful, full of genuine happiness at a job well done. A 41-year-old returned to the podium with a smile from ear to ear, knowing that he finally had a competitive car and a competent team. However, The first thing Alonso did when he finished, still riding his car, was ask about the status of Stroll and his positionto which he reacted with a very spontaneous joy.

Stroll, for his part, celebrated his medical miracle jokingly, asking Alonso in front of all the press if he was happy to have left Alpine; and he can already boast of having soaked up one of the hallmarks of his mentor, reference point and his partner: never give up, never give up. “Simply phenomenal,” Alonso described Stroll’s performancedescribed as a “legend” by other colleagues in the motor world such as Fabio Quartararo.

He starred in a miracle without recent precedents in the ‘Great Circus’, and also showed that he is one of the most talented youngsters on the current gridand that their year, that of Alonso and that of Aston Martin have only just begun, because they have, as Stroll indicated at the end of the statement in which he explained his accident, “with a medical team, a team, some colleagues, amazing friends and family.”

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