Dean Stoneman insists that he can still make it as an F1 driver, despite only recently having stepped back into a racing car after being diagnosed with testicular cancer 18 months ago.
The young Briton appeared to be going places after stepping up from Formula Renault to F2 and claiming the title at the first time of asking. Part of his prize for that success was to test with Williams during the Abu Dhabi 'young driver' session yet, just weeks after making his F1 debut, he was diagnosed with cancer and given just weeks to live after it was discovered that the disease had spread from its original source.
"The cancer spread from my right testicle, liver and chest [and] to be told that is not a nice thing to hear,” the 21-year old told BBC South
, “But I didn't sit there and cry. I said 'can you cure me?'
“The specialist said if I didn't go in and have treatment, I was two days away from being untreatable and two weeks from being dead. They said there was a 40 per cent chance of survival and it was hard to take in, but we sat there and dealt with it. At the end of the day, my time was not up, it was not my turn, I am a fighter. It was a big shock to a lot of people, but a lot of people supported me.
"I was having 14 hours of chemotherapy a day. Losing your hair is hard, but it is going to happen and it is what it is. You've got to be strong and move on. Because I am a racing driver I was pushing things all the time, having an hour break and then going back and doing another session."
Despite suffering both physically and mentally through the treatment process, Stoneman never let go of one thing – the memory of achieving his F1 dream. Despite having had to give up on a seat – alongside current Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo - at the crack ISR team in last year's World Series by Renault, and knowing that he still has to return to full fitness, he is now focused on reviving the grand prix goal.
"My aim is to still be in F1," Stoneman insisted, "I had racing in my head, but my number one goal was to survive. Now, after what I've been through over the past 14 months, I want to get back to racing.”
The youngster recently made his comeback at the wheel of a World Series car in winter testing and, amid hopes of heading to the United States to race in Indy Lights, completed his competitive comeback at the wheel of a Radical sportscar in a Silverstone club event. Although his fitness has improved with every outing, he accepts that he still has some way to go before he can consider returning to anything higher up the ladder.
"After winning the F2 championship, I was training very hard for the F1 test,” he noted, “I was strengthening my neck and doing two or three hours' training a day to get myself ready for the best day of my life.