Dennis warns rival F1 teams Vandoorne "not for sale"
McLaren chief Ron Dennis has issued a 'hands off' warning to rival teams about Stoffel Vandoorne, fuelling speculation that the Woking-based team is lining him up for a race seat in 2017.
The Belgian impressed on his race debut for the team in Bahrain as stand-in to Fernando Alonso, finishing 10th despite a very late call-up and having never driven the car before.
Having won the GP2 championship last year, and gaining more experience in Super Formula in Japan this season, it would make sense for Vandoorne to step up to F1 in 2017.
But a race seat at McLaren would most likely be at the expense of Jenson Button, with team-mate Fernando Alonso having a firm contract for next year.
Vandoorne's promise, and the fact McLaren could face a tough decision in letting Button go, is understood to have prompted interest from rival outfits in trying to lure the youngster away.
But speaking in Monaco on Thursday, Dennis made it clear that there is no prospect of other teams getting hold of Vandoorne.
"Stoffel is an extremely talented, intelligent and hard-working young driver, with an enormous amount of potential, and who importantly knows how to win," explained Dennis.
"As such he's an integral part of McLaren-Honda's future, and any other team that imagines they may be able to poach him away from us is very much mistaken.
"As regards our 2017 driver line-up, we aren't yet ready to commit or communicate, but you may rest assured that Stoffel is not for sale."
Although Button is the most experienced driver on the grid, if McLaren did let him go then it would unlikely be the end of his career – with speculation already linking him with Williams for 2017.
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