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Stoffel Vandoorne
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Stoffel Vandoorne

Vandoorne column: Bracing for a tough start to the season

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Vandoorne column: Bracing for a tough start to the season
By:
Mar 22, 2017, 1:52 PM

In his first column for Motorsport.com, McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne talks about his expectations for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32
Logo Stoffel Vandoorne
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren MCL32

Although the Australian Grand Prix will not be my first Formula 1 race, it still feels like a completely new experience for me travelling to Melbourne as a proper race driver for the 2017 season.

I was there last year as a reserve, but being at Albert Park as an official McLaren-Honda race driver is an exciting challenge.

As a driver, it is never easy going to races just to work on the sidelines and watch. But I took my role very professionally last year. I knew it was going to be a long season, going to all the races and knowing the chance of actually driving was very, very small.

I think I was even lucky to have the chance to do one race in Bahrain, which was unexpected. Anyhow, that was a very long time ago and it was still a long year.

What really kept me going and motivated me was that I always had the feeling that there was going to be an opportunity for me to race in F1. I also had a racing programme in Japan, which obviously meant I couldn't afford to be lazy.

Super Formula was a very, very competitive series with a very competitive car, and for me it was big motivation to perform well there as well and work hard with the team. Then to finally have the reward and sign my first F1 contract with McLaren-Honda was in a way a bit of a relief, because at that point there was nothing really more I could do.

I had won nearly all the championships I had competed in. I had worked very hard with the team as well, and it was just a nice feeling to know that I was getting the seat.

New cars

The 2017 season marks the start of a new era for F1 – with faster cars. My first impression of them from Barcelona was very good. They are definitely a lot quicker and the lap times are pretty impressive.

For us drivers it is nice to be able to push very hard again and finally I think F1 is back to the level where it should be compared to the junior series. That means laptimes that are nearly 10 seconds quicker than anything else.

There will be a bigger physical challenge for the drivers too. They are a lot tougher than they were last year, so over long races and in very hot climates I think it will be hard again.

I didn't experience any physical problems in testing though, because I had a very good winter preparation and I was 100 percent ready to drive these cars. Furthermore, Super Formula in Japan had prepared me very very well last year, with quick cars and quick cornering speeds.

Working together

Of course, McLaren-Honda's pre-season testing did not go as well as we had hoped, and from my side it was not the ultimate preparation for the season ahead.

But I know McLaren extremely well, which was already an advantage to start the season, so I feel ready to do the job.

I think we understand it is not an easy situation for all of us at the team at the moment, because we are very competitive people. We want to get back to the top as quickly as possible.

These are not easy times, but we have to make the most of it. We are working together and pushing the team very hard in the right direction, to make sure we develop in the right way.

Then hopefully, at some point, we will be rewarded.

Logo Stoffel Vandoorne
 
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