No McLaren F1 guarantees for Stoffel Vandoorne with Super Formula deal expected for 2016
Stoffel Vandoorne says he has no guarantees of a McLaren Formula 1 seat in 2017 as the GP2 champion closes in on a deal to race in the Japanese Sup...
Stoffel Vandoorne says he has no guarantees of a McLaren Formula 1 seat in 2017 as the GP2 champion closes in on a deal to race in the Japanese Super Formula championship this year.
The Belgian driver, who scored seven wins on the way to dominant GP2 series victory in 2015, explained that racing in F1 remains his target as begins his first year as McLaren’s reserve driver.
Speaking during a phone-in interview attended by this website, Vandoorne said: “Nothing has been promised [from McLaren] but I’m working my way towards F1, that’s definitely where I want to be.
“I already wanted to be there this year and I feel 100 per cent ready to be there [but] unfortunately there were no places available this season.
“I feel I am in the right place. McLaren really trusts in my ability – there are no guarantees for 2017 but it would be a good place for me to be here [and] to race for the team.
“I’ve been with them for a couple of years now and we’ve had a lot of success together and hopefully we can build on that success in the future and hopefully I can get a race drive here.”
Vandoorne explained that negotiations were continuing for him to contest the seven-round Super Formula championship in Japan alongside his McLaren reserve duties, but the 23-year-old reckons the series would provide the best preparation for a step up to F1 in 2017.
He said: “We’re still working on [a Super Formula deal] at the moment, but it’s no secret that it’s going in that direction. There is still on-going talks between McLaren and Honda but I’m confident that the deal will happen soon.
“If everything goes in that direction it will be a very busy year for me being McLaren reserve driver going to all of the Grand Prix, [spending] a lot of time in the simulator [and] being at the factory a lot with the engineers. It will be very good preparation for 2017.”
“I think it is still important to race something at least, It keeps you race sharp and race fit, it gives you something to work for during the year as well. EVen if Super Formula is noT that many races a year, it’s still better than doing nothing.
“The cars are quick, I tested one of them at the end of November last year. I had a first taste of it in Suzuka and they have great cornering speeds, which is a good preparation for 2017.
McLaren told Vandoorne it expected him to dominate GP2 last year and he responded with a 160 point margin in the final standings. The Belgian driver believes this sufficiently demonstrated his abilities as the team has so far not set him a minimum objective for 2016.
He said: “We haven’t really talked about it. I think the most important thing this season is to prepare for 2017.
“I have shown over the past years that I am capable of winning championships – I won the Formula Renault 1.6 championship, the 2 litre championship and last year, GP2.
“I feel that McLaren really believes in me and I’m going into this season to have the best preparation possible for 2017."
Vandoorne explained that his situation would different to that of previous McLaren reserve driver, Kevin Magnussen, who raced for the British team in 2014 before being demoted after Fernando Alonso signed for the squad and the Dane was eventually dropped towards the end of 2015.
The GP2 champion believes that racing alongside his duties for McLaren, something Magnussen was not able to do, gives him the best chance of making his F1 debut in the future.
He said: “First of all, Kevin is a great driver and he definitely deserves to be in Formula 1 and he might still end up in Formula 1. But in the end we’re at different points in our careers – I haven’t been in Formula 1 yet, I’m still working my way up there [and] hopefully I will get there soon.
“This year I will be the reserve driver at McLaren and hopefully combining that with a season racing in Super Formula and working really hard with the team to hopefully get a drive one day.
“I think we’re both very different and our positions are quite different because Kevin came on the back of a Formula 1 campaign and then was a reserve drive for a season without a real possibility to race anything besides that.
“Kevin didn’t have a lot of track time and hopefully in my case that will be quite a bit different if the Super Formula deal goes ahead. Then I will still have some racing experience with a new car, [and] hopefully some Formula 1 testing besides that as well, so it will be quite a bit different.”
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