Stoffel Vandoorne

Its been announced this week that Belgian Mclaren development driver Stoffel Vandoorne will return to the GP2 series in 2015 again driving for the ART team. Vandoorne is hoping a successful championship year with ART will be the pathway for him to get into F1 for 2016, preferably with Mclaren, but is that actually really likely to happen?

Vandoorne’s potential is not in any doubt. He won the F4 Eurocup title in 2010 and then had a close tussle with Dani Kvyat in Eurocup 2.0 in 2012, a tussle he eventually won and took the title. In 2013 he jumped up to the WSR 3.5 series and scored a win on his debut. He scored 4 wins in total with 10 podiums in 17 races, all this in the much unfancied Fortec car as well. He was piped to the title by fellow Mclaren development driver Kevin Magnussen who had already done a year in the series and was driving the all mighty DAMS car. K-Mag landed himself an F1 seat with Mclaren and Vandoorne switched feeder series to join ART in GP2. Once again Vandoorne scored a win on his debut before suffering the same fate the majority of rookies do when joining GP2 and falling backwards whilst getting used to the difficult Pirelli tyres. To be fair to Vandoorne this only lasted for a few rounds and by the time he got to round 7 in Austria he was back up there with the front runners. Unfortunately for him Jolyon Palmer, again in a mighty DAMS car, was already out of sight but he did manage to haul back to 2nd in the championship with a further 3 wins and 5 podiums. He was cost better results by some questionable tactical decision by ART on occasions too, especially when the failed to pit him under the safety car when the entire rest of the field did leaving him in an almost impossible position. Anyone who saw his comeback drive that day can’t have failed to be impressed.

Vandoorne will most likely go into the GP2 2015 season as favourite for the title, even if he does have some stiff competition in Gasly and Lynn (DAMS again!), but will even a dominant season in this series guarantee him a seat in F1? In these times of financial trouble pure talent does not now make it a certainty that an F1 seat will become available. Vandoorne is currently backed by Mclaren but with a lack of so-called feeder teams where would they put him? They already have K-Mag on their books who has been dropped from race seat to 3rd driver for 2015 and they have another talented youngster in Nick de Vries queuing up right behind Vandoorne. With Alonso and Button locked into the F1 seats and Vandoorne not even being next in line is the Mclaren root even a valid one for him to get into F1? On the other hand if he breaks away from Mclaren he has no funding so would a seat become available to him at all then either.

Rumour has it that back in 2013 Vandoorne was approached by Helemt Marko and offered the Toro Rosso seat for 2014. Vandoorne decided he wasn’t ready and that he would stick with Mclaren. That seat then went to his old rival in Eurocup Kvyat who now in 2015 will be driving for the Red Bull A team. Whilst at the time I thought Vandoorne had made a wise decision with hindsight it looks like he may have missed out.

Can F1 afford to miss out on talent like Vandoorne? Are you confident we’ll see him in F1 one day? Have you been impressed by him or do you think he is just all hype? I would be interested to hear your thoughts.
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However it wasn't a rumour that Marko contacted him.

He said it himself that RB were in search for a replacement for DR and that they offered him a contract for one year. He consulted his management and they came to the agreement that Mclaren was the best option for the future, since the RB contract was only for one year and Mclaren would be for the long term.

We probably will see if Mclaren was the best option by the end of the year. But if Honda isn't gonna supply another team for 2016 and Button continues I see his chances in f1 to be very grim.
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Nice one Bushi I'd heard it suggested but not 100% confirmed.

I wonder if he's glaring at his management thinking he could have been in that Red Bull seat by now.
Honda must be open to supply engines to other teams in 2016 but they have secured a 10 year contract with Mclaren which makes them the factory team

Vandoorn is in a difficult position now with his options into F1 seemingly bottlenecked. Ron seems to like K Mag so Vandoorn seriously has to impress when it matters most ie during the Grand Prix weekends - win races like Hamilton did to put pressure to get a seat

If a 3rd car was allowed I think K Mag will get it. Therefore Vandoorn needs to be loaned to a tail end team which probably would need a lot of Mclaren support

I think he was right to refuse the Red Bull contract unless he could get a long term contract because fail at Red Bull is pretty much the end of a driver's career into F1

Alex Lynn who was on Red Bull's young driver programme has signed up with Williams as development driver so he obviously thought that there was little opportunity for him to progress as well

GP2 has been devalued by the more recent champions not getting themselves F1 drives and drivers who finished behind them getting into F1 because the backing

It seems WSR has surpassed GP2 as the series to be even GP3 is now considered to be the place to spot the next superstar
Honda must be open to supply engines to other teams in 2016 but they have secured a 10 year contract with Mclaren which makes them the factory team
No they are not a factory team, a factory team builds everything including engines Mercedes is a factory team, Ferrari is a factory team McLaren is a customer team and always has been...
Plus Lynn was dropped by Red Bull Juniors so took Williams because of that. Not that I'm saying they were right too but lets not pretend he left because he didn't see a future there.

Danii Kvyat is the only driver to go directly into GP3 and the only other driver not to go into another feeder series between GP3 and F1 was Bottas and he had 2 years as a test driver. Don't think we can quite elavate GP3 up there yet.

Plus I'll point out that last years GP2 champion was of the best quality in a long time and still didn't get a drive so I don't think its the lack of quality in the series thats the issue. More like the lack of seats in F1.
Tying up a 10 year deal pretty much makes them the factory team and no doubt Ron Dennis would made it clear that they need to be working very closely not like Renault with Red Bull

So the Honda guys need to design the engine together with what the Mclaren guys will do with chassis and integrate the parts together
I'd just like to get in there early and congratulate Vandorne on winning the 2015 GP2 title.

(Brogan could we move this thread to be in general motorsport drivers?)
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It was a very fine drive he put today, to win his second feature race of the season- to have carved his way through the field without DRS to make his early strategy work was really good to watch. I have to concur with RasputinLives....
I was thinking before the season that Vandoorne is the biggest pre-season championship favourite in GP2 Series history. By the first four races, I wasn't wrong.
There has been a lot of drivers I've thought it has been a shame to see not get into F1 but if Vandoorne doesn't get a seat soon then the sport is really very broken.
I wonder if he could be placed at Manor? Roberto Mehri has been doing a pretty crap job thus far and I'm sure some Honda cash could buy a seat for him.
To be quite honest, I wouldn't be all that broken-hearted to see JB off to WEC at the end of the year and Stoffel take his place at McLaren just in time for Honda to get it right again (rather it was Alonso, but frankly a bit unlikely). Manor has been the the death-knell of too many putative F1 careers to date, and I'd hate to see such an obvious talent as Vandoorne squandered at the back of the grid. Put him up front and watch him humble the Vettels and Hamiltons of the world I say!
I wonder if he could be placed at Manor? Roberto Mehri has been doing a pretty crap job thus far and I'm sure some Honda cash could buy a seat for him.

Manor are keeping Mehri on until the end of the European season and then are going to drop him as we fly out to the far aways. By this time Jordan King will have done enough races in GP2 and Friday sessions in the F1 car for the FIA to grant him a super licence. He'll race the last few races which will secure him a super licence for 2016 and thus completely bypass the new super licence rules coming in next year.

I'm pretty sure thats the plan. So no seat for Stoff there.

Nico Hulkenberg looks like he can't be bothered though.
RasputinLives I see Hulkenberg as missing the boat to make a name for himself in F1 and giving way to Vandoorne as they were talks with Force India last year about placing him there

A bit of extra cash from Mclaren to fund for his drive I don't see Force India saying no unless Mercedes demand a German driver for use of their engines ... if that is the case I am sure Mclaren would not mind if Honda provide cheaper customer engines to Force India to develop Vandoorne's career

Road of Bones Don't think Alonso wants Vandoorne to be his teammate as it could be a repeat of Hamilton again for him whilst he establish himself with Mclaren as front runners
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