It was announced yesterday that the 2015 GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne will serve as McLaren’s reserve driver for the 2016 season.
The Belgian, who will provide back-up to Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, replaces Kevin Magnussen after the Dane was released by the team in October.
Magnussen did not do any racing in addition to his work with McLaren, where he filled in for Alonso at the season-opening race in Australia, but Vandoorne in his interview with the media yesterday has said he does not plan on sitting on the sidelines all year. Vandoorne stated the following:-
‘I definitely want to race something next year, but what it will be we don’t know yet. There’s definitely some options, though, and we’re talking about them. I’m going to be test and reserve driver at McLaren anyway, which is a good position to be in. Obviously I want to race something next year as well, to say sharp, to stay fit, and to stay focused, so we’ll see what comes out.
‘And if you stay sharp, fit and focused, then if any opportunity arises in F1 you’re 100 percent ready to jump in.’
It is clear that Vandoorne is delighted with becoming the reserve driver for the McLaren team next season; even though he wants to race in another series of motorsport and he has options available to him. But he understands that he will have to balance both of the commitments and be ready for a chance to jump into F1 when he comes and I think he has the right attitude as well.
Even though Vandoorne was linked with a McLaren race seat earlier in the year, with Button’s future in some doubt. However, with Button remaining with the team for another season, the 23-year-old has to wait a little longer for his shot at a spot on the F1 grid. But all that matters right now is that he has managed to gain a foot in the door into the sport just like Jolyon Palmer did this season with Lotus and has now been rewarded with a race seat for next year.
There is no question for me that Stoffel needs to be in the sport as soon as possible as he has shown that he is more than talented and capable enough to be there; but patience is rewarded and I have no doubt that in his case it will be soon enough.