Vandoorne’s new role in and out of F1
Stoffel leaves McLaren in 2019, but he finds some new opportunities – Mercedes offers him a seat in Formula E and a position of simulator driver in F1.
After a brilliant GP2 win Stoffel Vandoorne has entered Formula 1 series as a perspective rookie, McLaren’s protégé and the team’s new racing driver. The situation didn’t really look so bad at the beginning – well, Alonso and Button haven’t made a huge success with Honda, but the manufactory claimed to improve, and it was, anyways, a real chance for the Belgian driver to show himself.
Two seasons later, still struggling with the car, he was no longer so optimistic – his career went in a wrong way as he finished the championship on the 16th place, gaining almost a quarter of the points his team mate has collected. McLaren decided not to re-sign Stoffel for 2019, which led him to being out of F1 at least for the next season.
And here the dramatic side of the story suddenly ends as Mercedes’ boss Toto Wolff steps in, making an important call and an interesting offer – the Mercedes-affiliated HWA team was going to join Formula E in the season of 2018-2019 and Wolff’s choice fell on Vandoorne as one of the drivers.
“I actually had a phone call with Toto and he asked if I would be interested to join HWA for the Formula E project and I didn’t really have to think about that.” Stoffel said in one of his interviews.
“HWA as a team – they’ve done extremely well in the past and just last weekend won the championship in DTM as well – so a lot of talented people [are] there.
The plans for the future were looking very exciting, so when I had the chance to join Formula E with HWA and knowing what the future holds - I didn't really have to think twice."
It should be mentioned that Toto Wolff has been always giving a positive review on the Belgian’s performances, starting from GP2 and up until today, even though the years with McLaren were not satisfying enough. Back then in 2016, when Jenson Button was partnering Fernando Alonso, Wolff promised to find a place for young Vandoorne if Mclaren would be “crazy” enough to not sign him instead of the Briton, and it looks like he really kept the promise – in 2018.
It’s not a surprise to hear F1 names in electric car series (we have already seen Jean-Eric Vergne, Sebastien Buemi, Felipe Massa, etc), but Stoffel was given a chance to keep in touch with Formula 1 as well; Mercedes has offered him a position of simulator driver for next season. It seems like a small role, but it’s actually highly significant for the driver – he will be involved in a work of a new team and getting more opportunities to return, as he stated himself:
“It’s definitely good to keep involved in the world because you never know what happens in the future. I think to be involved with Mercedes and to perform the work for them, it’s good that they will know exactly what I’m capable of doing. And we don’t know what the driver market is going to do in the future.
“It was a bit crazy this season and who knows what it will be next season. It’s hard to tell. So it’s good to be involved and to be prepared for anything that comes up.”