After a string of difficult race weekends, Stroll outqualified Fernando Alonso for just the third time in this Formula 1 season in the rain-afflicted session around Sao Paulo’s historic track.
He also managed to sneak ahead of renowned qualifiers such as Lewis Hamilton, George Russell and Lando Norris for his best qualifying result of the 2023 campaign, before finishing in the top five in the race.
“The Lance we see is different to you, he works so hard,” McCullough said. “He’s so motivated to learn from one of the best drivers this sport has ever seen and that’s what Fernando is.
“And that work ethic is what’s allowing him to learn and to be better so yes, there have been events when we, operationally, have taken a risk in qualifying trying to save soft tyres and that just puts you on the backfoot.
“I think collectively as a team and with Lance, it’s just all about that learning process, I’m really pretty convinced in these next three races we’re going to hopefully see that with a car that’s a bit more competitive and into the New Year carrying on that momentum.”
Alonso relieved with upturn in form
After the Spanish GP in June, Alonso confidently declared, “this is the last race without a podium!” However, the reality has been far from the Asturian driver’s prophecy.
Just two podiums have arrived in the following 12 races as Aston Martin lost their development path and slipped down the order behind Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren and even at times most of the grid.
Their upgrades the United States GP aimed to correct the errors they made, but after a disappointing Sprint Race in Texas, with both drivers outside the top 10, the team broke parc ferme rules to make big changes to the car and Stroll finished seventh.
In Brazil, they were back on form as Alonso held off Sergio Perez to take his eighth podium of the season and Stroll had his best result, in fifth, since the Australian GP in April.
“I think there are a couple of things that have been understood inside the team and the direction to go and we had some hopes for this race and they proved to be right,” said Alonso.
“And now, why not to be competitive in the last two. I don’t know if [it would be] the level of the podium.
“We had Charles, obviously, going off on the formation lap with the problem, we had the Mercedes underperforming, Checo starting at the back, so there were a couple of factors that helped us to be on the podium. But, hopefully in the mix, that will be a happy place for us.”