Vandoorne gets McLaren reserve role

2014 F1 season

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McLaren have appointed Young Driver Programme member Stoffel Vandoorne as their F1 reserve driver for the 2014 season.

The 21-year-old was runner-up to Kevin Magnussen in his rookie season of Formula Renault 3.5 last year. He will race in the GP2 series for ART this year.

“I feel I’m making good progress towards my ultimate goal: Formula One,” said Vandoorne.

“I’ve been a member of the McLaren Young Driver Programme for almost a year now, and I’ve learned an enormous amount in that time. I visit the McLaren Technology Centre at least once a week, sometimes more often than that, and I’ve done a lot of work in the MTC simulator to assist McLaren’s Formula 1 engineers develop the new-for-2014 MP4-29 Formula One car.”

McLaren sporting director Sam Michael said Vandoorne is “a truly excellent young driver – fast, combative, consistent, intelligent and ambitious – and he’s already made an excellent impression on all at McLaren during the year he’s spent as a member of the McLaren Young Driver Programme”.

“His technical input is first-class, he’s excellent in our simulator, and he isn’t afraid of hard work. He has a collaborative and engaging manner, and he’s therefore as popular at McLaren as he is helpful.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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22 comments on “Vandoorne gets McLaren reserve role”

  1. Nice to see that. Hopefully he’ll get a race seat in some team in 2015.

  2. Mclaren really are doing their bit to bring in the next handful of drivers, fair play to them. This team is going to be pretty fresh looking come the time (if it happens) Vandoorne steps up alongside Magnussen.

  3. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    23rd January 2014, 9:06

    Really looking forward to Ferrari-backed Marciello vs McLaren-backed Vandoorne in GP2. Quite frankly, if anyone other than those win the title, or if for third year in a row it turns out that experience is the main factor needed to win the GP2 title, then we will have to start questioning the longevity of a series that has already been overtaken by FR3.5 as the main feeder series to F1.

    However regarding Marciello and Vandoorne, both are incredible talents, the likes of which cannot be found in the Red Bull Young Driver Programme, and I fully expect to see both of them in F1 in 2015, they deserve nothing less…

    1. Hm, ART hasn’t been the GP2 powerhouse they once were with the current crop of cars and regulations though @william-brierty, it might well be that they too (like McLaren) will be in a year of re-building their strengths so I would hesitate to immediately see Vandoorne as a title favourite.

      That said, these two certainly rank amongst the best drivers (I am curious to see how Abt does at Hilmer next year). Did Russian Time annouce their drivers yet?

      1. Perhaps choosing Vandoorne as a driver comes with some benefits for ART – a McLaren technical partnership perhaps? That might help them recapture their past form.

      2. I’m thinking Dillmann and a Russian driver.

      3. @bascb – Of the drivers that are currently signed up, I don’t see any drivers that have enough talent to threaten either Vandoorne or Marciello. OK, Bird, Calado and Nasr may yet stay on, but at the moment driver vintage really isn’t a threat to either of them. However, you raise a good point with saying that ART has been struggling, and with a poor season from Arden Caterham making it impossible for Da Costa to challenge for the title in FR3.5, it really is striking just how important the team is, although Marciello doesn’t have that excuse with Racing Engineering. However with Valsecchi, Leimer and to some extent Grosjean all winning the GP2 title with substantial GP2 experience, those with greater experience of handling the hap-hazard torque characteristics of a car famously hard to master may be a big advantage. That, coupled with the need to master fragile Pirellis after coming from series with durable tyres appear to be the only factors preventing either Vandoorne or Marciello from taking the title. Personally, my bet is on Marciello…

        On another note, why do think Abt will do a good job? OK, it has historically taken him several seasons to adapt to a new car, but given his terrible season last year, I can’t imagine him being able to make enough of a step to find himself at the sharp end, even if the Hilmer car is better than the ART.

        1. If you look at Abts times in testing with Hilmer, I wouldn’t count him completely out of it @william-brierty, his form in other series hints that he should be able to do the job, he now has a seasons experience in GP2 as well.
          But a lot depends on who gets to fill the still empty seats too.

          1. @bascb – Well on that basis he might be one to watch, especially since Hilmer immediately got a good handle on what is a difficult car in their first year, but I really don’t know what to make of Abt. He can be brilliant, but he can also be poor. I doubt that Abt, even with an extra year of GP2 experience, will be able to match Marciello and Racing Engineering, who in my opinion go into the season as favourites.

    2. Palmer and Abt showed signs of promise last season, we don’t know what Calado is doing yet either. Anyway there will be some good talent in the GP2 field.

      1. @craig-o – Palmer and DAMS may well take the title if both Vandoorne and Marciello struggle to get a handle on a difficult series to master, and one utterly different to either FR3.5 or FIA F3. I fail to see however how Abt will be able to make a big enough step to go from the back of the grid last year to the front this year.

    3. I would love to see Felix Da Costa there. However, Da Costa is in a much, much more challenging championship with former F1 drivers and great talent, in a manufacturer filled grid with teams that are more similar to F1 than GP2 in terms of cheer high profile professionals and technicians. How will Da Costa fare in a championship with Di Resta, Glock, Mortara, Paffett, and exciting new talent like Marcus Whitmann, Daniel Juncadella, etc? For a motorsport fan, both GP2 and DTM look unmissable! Haven’t been this excited for these feeder series in a long time!

      1. @sergio-perez I don’t think you can call DTM a feeder series. I appreciate there’s some proper talent inthere but it mostly serves as one of the possibilities for drivers that either leave F1, or drivers that never got to F1 in the first place.
        There are examples of drivers that made a switch from DTM to F1, but (correct me if I’m mistaken) these are rare and the only notable one in the last 10 years must be di Resta.

        Feeder series are basically single seater series that have a place in a pyramid with F1 as the top of the pyramid.

      2. @sergio-perez – I completely agree about DTM. Not only is it easily the richest field of talent outside F1, it is also a series that I am probably looking forward to in 2014 as much as I am GP2 or FR3.5. The melting pot of young talent in Da Costa and Juncadella, ex-F1 drivers, in Di Resta and Glock, and touring car masters in Farfus and Rockenfeller, will make it a must watch in 2013. And unlike MattDS, I agree with you when you say DTM is a feeder series to F1. It used to be an “end of the road” series, like the various sportscar championships, Indycar and F1 itself, but now with the downforce characteristics, strategic elements and team professionalism making it very relevant to F1, we are seeing drivers, like Da Costa, Juncadella and Wickens all standing very good chances of getting F1 drives in the future. The link between DTM and F1 was of course initiated in 2010, when Force India took Di Resta from the series, and in the highly likely eventuality that Paul makes the move from DTM to F1 again in 2015, then we really will start having to call it a feeder series.

    4. Be it true! :)

  4. Button’s 34 now and I think I’m not the only one to think he’s not going to be winning more championships. Will he bow out like Webber did before he is forced to quit eventually though? I don’t think he has any intention of quitting and wants to be part of the new Honda family from next year on too. With Vandoorne as a backup and Ron Dennis back pulling strings at McLaren I can imagine Button being thanked for his service, no matter how popular he is at McLaren.

    1. As a Button-fan I would be sad to see him go, but as a Belgian I would be delighted if Vandoorne could get into a competitive f1 seat!

      1. Same feeling!

    2. The Blade Runner (@)
      23rd January 2014, 15:20

      The McLaren/Santander sponsorship deal was announced as continuing today which is obviously led by Button. Has anybody seen in the reports how long that deal is set to last? I can’t see Santander signing a multi-year sponsorship deal if their golden boy is likely to be ditched in 2015.

      1. This is a good point.. who would lead the advertising in the UK if Jenson doesn’t?

        McLaren do have a YDP quite full of talent now.. Vandoorne, De Vries and Barnicoat.. Rowland was dropped, yet he will be at the front of FR3.5 this year. Dennis as well, who has just grduated to F3. Both were competitive last year and still dropped.

        It’s obvious they are thinking long term of two from Magnussen, Vandoorne and de Vries/Barnicoat challenging. Vandoorne would really benefit from a few years at a Force India or Marussia, while Button has his last few years, but McLaren will give him reserve and sim/testing for now. Paffett and Turvey are the real test drivers though.

        1. @fastiesty To be honest. Rowland and Dennis weren’t dropped, they were never a part of McLaren’s YDP. They simply got access to McLaren’s simulator and a couple of other things on the back of winning the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award. Same with Harvey.

      2. @thebladerunner , Alonso has strong ties with Santander, to me it adds fuel to the fire regarding the “‘Nando to McLaren 2015” rumours..

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