LONDON (Reuters) - Canadian Formula One driver Lance Stroll has played down the importance of having experienced Brazilian Felipe Massa as his Williams team mate last year and denied there was any ‘mentoring’ role.
“I don’t think I had any guidance from him last year, whatsoever,” Motorsport.com quoted the 19-year-old as saying of the now-retired Massa, winner of 11 races with Ferrari and runner-up in the 2008 world championship.
“He was a team mate like any other. He was busy trying to drive as fast as he could, and I was trying to drive as fast as I could. That was it. There was nothing more to it than that,” he added.
“I don’t know why people seem to think there was a coach or a mentor thing going on. There wasn’t; it was just him doing his job and me doing mine, and whoever did it better finished ahead.”
Massa, 36, retired at the end of last year and has been replaced by 22-year-old Russian rookie Sergey Sirotkin in what will now be the youngest and least experienced driver line-up on the starting grid.
The Brazilian, who has previously compared the situation at Williams to his time at Ferrari learning from Michael Schumacher, responded on Twitter with a link to the story and the words: ‘Better not to comment’.
Stroll, who at 18 last June became the youngest rookie to finish on the podium when he came third in Azerbaijan, recognised Massa’s knowledge had been useful in working to improve last year’s car.
“Felipe was a good help in that way of helping the team develop with the new regulations, and Robert can definitely help us,” he said, referring to experienced Polish reserve Robert Kubica.
Williams finished fifth overall last year, with Massa scoring 43 points to Stroll’s 40.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Clare Fallon