McLaren boss Zak Brown says he is working to ensure axed Formula One driver Stoffel Vandoorne has a seat on the grid next year and has suggested he could be a part of the team’s rumoured IndyCar project.
McLaren’s decision to drop Stoffel Vandoorne for Lando Norris doesn’t come as a surprise, but does the Belgian deserve a second chance? Nate Saunders explains why he does.
On Monday McLaren confirmed Vandoorne will leave the team at the end of 2018, with junior driver Lando Norris taking his race seat. Vandoorne came into McLaren amidst high expectations following a dominant Formula Two championship in 2015 but has been comprehensively outperformed by Fernando Alonso this year.
Vandoorne has been linked with Toro Rosso in Sauber in recent weeks. Brown has suggested the Belgian could remain part of the McLaren outfit’s wider programme, which looks set to include an IndyCar entry in 2019.
When asked at a media session at McLaren’s headquarters on Tuesday if he would be putting some calls in to other team bosses about Vandoorne, Brown said: “Yeah I already have and anything we can do to help Stoffel, we would help him in a heartbeat.
“We consider him family, he’s been outstanding to work with, hopefully he lands in Formula One, that’s where I think he deserves to be, but we have some other racing activities that you guys know we are reviewing and I wouldn’t hesitate to keep Stoffel in the McLaren family if there was a seat available and he had a desire to race in it.”
It was then suggested people could expect McLaren’s 2018 line-up to be its 2019 IndyCar line-up, to which he laughed and said: “Highly unlikely.”
Brown believes Vandoorne was a victim of circumstance at McLaren and admits the youngster never had the opportunity to properly showcase his talent.
“I definitely think he’s a Formula One calibre driver and if I was Toro Rosso — who appear to have two open seats — I’d put Stoffel in in a heartbeat. I think we’ve had a very poor race car for two years.
“Someone like Fernando can adapt quicker, he’s got so much experience. Stoffel was very close to Fernando, a lot closer than some other teammates as Fernando commented. Stoffel is an outstanding race car driver. Ultimately we look to the future and feel Lando’s a future star. I think in a different environment Stoffel may excel more, and with a better race car.
“If I look at his debut races, beside Bahrain which was an impressive debut, but the 2017 season he was going to race tracks and losing practice sessions … so I’m not sure he ever really got the opportunity to get into a groove. When you have a teammate like Fernando who can draw on that experience and I think is recognised as one of the best guys out there, Fernando’s going to adapt to that situation quicker.”
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