“Optimistic.” That was Lance Stroll’s verdict on Williams’ one-stop tyre strategy at the French Grand Prix, which the Canadian believes contributed to him suffering a tyre blow-out late in the race.
With their car lacking pace all weekend, Williams opted to roll the dice and pit Stroll and team mate Sergey Sirotkin under the Lap-1 Safety Car, which was introduced following the collision between Force India’s Esteban Ocon and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly.
That switch from ultrasofts to softs was made in the hope that both FW41 challengers could make up positions after an underwhelming qualifying left them near the back of the grid, but Stroll began to struggle in the latter stages of the race when he flat-spotted his front-left tyre at Turn 8.
And his race was brought to an abrupt end with just a couple of laps remaining when that same tyre gave way as Stroll narrowly led Sirotkin into the Signes corner, forcing him to park his car at the edge of the track and leading to a VSC period.
“At the beginning the pace wasn't too bad and I had a good start. With about 20 laps to go I felt a massive vibration on the car and it was just big wear on the front-left tyre,” he said.
“I had a flat spot on that tyre and then with (Stoffel) Vandoorne when he overtook me it was already so bad that I couldn't turn right, as I had no support on the left tyre. Then with a few laps to go the vibration was so bad the tyre just blew and that was it.
“It was optimistic to go the whole race on one set of tyres, and I think we were the only ones trying to go the whole way. We tried to do something, but it just didn't work. It was certainly not the race we were hoping for.”
Williams' Head of Performance Engineering, Rob Smedley, explained the team's approach, revealing the strategy decision was made pre-race to pit both cars in the event of an opening-lap Safety Car.
“We were reasonably confident that we would get a prime tyre to do the full race distance which on Sergey’s car, it did, so when we discussed it this morning, we thought we would stop on a first lap safety car.
“We did that in the hope that faster cars would pit and come out behind us and then it was a case of seeing if we could hold them up or not. Lance was unfortunate with his puncture after enjoying a great start.
“Both drivers did a solid job for the team in attempting what they could to try and improve our finishing position. This is not what we want however, and we need to continue to work as a team to improve things.”
It has been a tremendously disappointing season so far for Williams, who sit bottom of the constructors’ standings with just four points.