July 20, 2018 / 5:17 PM / a month ago

Motor racing: Williams keeping an open mind on Stroll situation

HOCKENHEIM, Germany (Reuters) - Williams are keeping an open mind on Canadian driver Lance Stroll’s future with the Formula One team, technical head Paddy Lowe said on Friday, amid speculation linking the teenager to rivals Force India.

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Canadian Grand Prix - Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada - June 10, 2018 Williams' Lance Stroll before the race REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Media reports have suggested the 19-year-old, whose billionaire father is one of Canada’s richest men, is looking for a move away from a team last in the standings and enduring a nightmare season.

“I’m not worrying about it. It’s that type of time in the season when there are lots of stories around the media about drivers doing this or that,” Lowe told reporters at the German Grand Prix.

“As far as I’m concerned we’re working very much in the present with Lance.

“It’s true he hasn’t committed for next year. We haven’t committed to him either, so that is an open point. Where it lands, who knows. We would love to stay with Lance and that’s our assumption at the moment,” he added.

Force India, who also use Mercedes engines, have punched above their weight for the past two seasons with successive fourth places.

They also operate with one of the smallest budgets in the sport, their finances mostly coming from prize money and sponsorship due to the ongoing problems of co-owner and principal Vijay Mallya.

India wants to extradite the 62-year-old former liquor baron from Britain to face charges, which he denies, of fraud as a group of Indian banks seek to recover more than $1 billion of loans granted to his defunct Kingfisher Airlines.

Stroll, in his second season at Williams after finishing third in Azerbaijan last year, indicated on Thursday that his future at the former champions depended on them finding a solution to their aerodynamic problems.

“I also want to do what’s best for me as a driver, so we will come to all the conclusions at the right time and figure out what’s best for the future,” said the Canadian.

“I don’t know yet what I’m doing or where my future is going.”

The Canadian, who also brings an important financial contribution to the team, has scored all of Williams four points this season after taking 40 last year.

If Stroll were to switch to Force India, that could be part of a potential merry-go-round among those teams in midfield and further behind - Renault, McLaren, Sauber, Haas, Toro Rosso and Williams.

Force India’s current pairing is experienced Mexican Sergio Perez and young Frenchman Esteban Ocon, the latter a highly-rated Mercedes protege who has also been linked to Renault where Spaniard Carlos Sainz is on loan from Red Bull.

Mallya said earlier this month that he wanted to keep Ocon and Perez “unless they get offers that they cannot refuse”.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis

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