WOKING, England — McLaren Honda confirmed Wednesday that Stoffel Vandoorne will return to the team for the 2018 Formula 1 World Championship season.
The 25-year-old Belgian debuted with the team in 2016, subbing for the injured Fernando Alonso during the second race of the season in Bahrain and scoring points in his F1 debut with a 10th-place finish.
He was signed for a full season this year, replacing the retiring Jenson Button, and captured his second-career points haul last time out at the Hungaroring by tying his career-best finish with another 10th.
“I’m delighted that the team has now formally announced that I will continue to race for them next year, because I’ll be able to approach the second half of my rookie season with total focus on the job in hand: namely getting the very most I can out of my car, my engineers, and everything and everyone around me,” said Vandoorne. “I’ve already learned such a huge amount in the first half of my first season in Formula 1 – from my engineers, from my mechanics, from Eric [Boullier], from Zak [Brown] and from Jonathan [Neale], and also from Fernando [Alonso], who is a brilliant driver and also an excellent teammate.”
“Last but not least, I want to say thank you to McLaren’s partners and fans for their loyalty and enthusiasm – they are the best in the business – and also to McLaren’s Executive Committee Principals, [Shaikh] Mohammed and Mansour [Ojjeh], who continue to put their faith in me.”
While the length of the contract was not announced, McLaren team principals indicated that Vandoorne will be with the team for years to come.
“When we announced at the end of 2016 that Stoffel would be a McLaren Honda race driver for 2017, we indicated that our plan was that he’d race for us for a number of years,” said Eric Boullier, Racing Director, McLaren Honda. “That plan hasn’t changed, and I’m very happy therefore to be able to confirm that he’ll continue to race for us next season.”
“Like all rookies, he’s had to learn a lot in the first half of his first Formula 1 season, but we have great confidence in him, and he’s getting better and better all the time. His teammate is a tough opponent – that’s an understatement in fact, because he’s arguably the best driver in the sport today – but Stoffel’s robust talent and fierce ambition make us sure that he’ll achieve great successes with us in the future.”
“I regard Stoffel as a super talent – a future Formula 1 world champion in fact – and that’s why I’ve always been adamant that he should race for us on a multi-year basis,” added Zak Brown, Executive Director, McLaren Technology Group. “When we signed Stoffel, we intended that he would race for us for a significant number of years, and that remains our firm intention.”
“We all know Stoffel’s potential, and when we have a package fast enough to win grands prix again – and we will – Stoffel will be in the right place to score his first Formula 1 victory.”
Vandoorne is the first driver finalized for a McLaren seat for next year, with Fernando Alonso’s status widely questioned following his stirring Indianapolis 500 performance in May and a spate of mechanical issues for the Woking team so far in 2017.
However, the Hungarian Grand Prix marked a step in the right direction for the team, with its first double points haul of the season.
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Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
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