Super Formula ‘best possible’ preparation for 2017 – Vandoorne

2016 F1 season

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McLaren reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne says he believes the Japanese Super Formula series is his best possible option for this season as he eyes an F1 race seat for 2017.

As the reigning champion, Vandoornge cannot return to GP2 this season. He will instead race in Japan for the Honda-powered Docomo Dandelion team.

“Unfortunately I’m not allowed to do GP2 again this year, so we had to look for a different option,” says Vandoorne.

“Super Formula came to be the best possible option for me this year to prepare for 2017. Obviously after winning GP2 I really wanted to be in F1. But sometimes that’s just how it is. There’s no places available and I think having a racing programme in Japan with Honda will be a really good opportunity for me to build a relationship with Honda and prepare for 2017.”

Vandoorne attended last weekend’s race in Australia
The Super Formula field includes many former Formula One drivers such as Kamui Kobayashi, Kazuki Nakajima, Andre Lotterer and Narain Karthikeyan. The Dallara SF14 chassis and 2.0-litre turbo engines used in the series produce some of the fastest lap times seen outside F1, getting within five seconds of current grand prix cars at Suzuka.

“The cars are very physically demanding as well,” explains Vandoorne.

“The cornering speeds especially are very high. I think they’re even higher than an F1 car. So you have to be very fit. It’s a long distance as well. Nearly a 90 minute race, like F1. It’s going to be even harder than what I’ve done over the last couple of years, so it’s going to be very good preparation for Formula One.”

As McLaren’s reserve driver for 2016, Vandoorne will also attend the majority of this season’s 21 grands prix with the team and says he’s ready to race should he ever be called into action.

“My role at the races will be to assist Jenson [Button] and Fernando [Alonso] at the weekends. Listening to all the technical briefings, doing some media work as well. It’ll be busy race weekends for me.

“Obviously I spend a lot of time in the simulator over the winter and before every grand prix. That’s basically the best way for me to keep in good shape. My racing programme in Japan as well will help me keep race-sharp. I will be one-hundred percent ready to jump in the car.”

The 2016 Super Formula season will begin on April 24th at Suzuka.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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15 comments on “Super Formula ‘best possible’ preparation for 2017 – Vandoorne”

  1. Michael Brown
    24th March 2016, 11:51

    “The 2017 Super Formula season will begin on April 24th at Suzuka.”

    Don’t you mean 2016?

  2. Incredible to be sat here thinking ‘he’ll be so old when he makes his F1 debut’… when he’ll only be 24.

  3. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    24th March 2016, 14:09

    But, Stoffel is prepared. He has a higher junior series win rate than either Lewis Hamilton or Nico Hülkenberg. He won on debut in both GP2 and FR3.5, and broke almost every single record available in his victorious second season in GP2 (Palmer managed 11th in the standings in his second season – Grosjean managed 4th).

    The sobering thing is, McLaren know that Stoffel Vandoorne is as good a find as Lewis Hamilton. They know that he, Esteban Ocon and Max Verstappen are likely to be the defining talents of the next generation in F1, and, in an ideal world, Stoffel would be alongside Alonso right now. But this is without considering McLaren’s seemingly unique relationship with its sparse roster of sponsors, for whom the charisma and charm of national treasure Button is apparently an indispensable asset.

    It took Lewis Hamilton about three races to attain a status of global sensation in 2007 – with a similarly competitive car, Vandoorne has proven that he has the abilities could do exactly the same. Given that 2016 is another building year for McLaren-Honda, why not share the drive between Button and Vandoorne? Whilst it is strange to be saying this to the team that discovered Häkkinen, Räikkönen and Hamilton, but it is time to put a little faith in young talent.

    1. Vandoorne won Gp2 in his second attempt.

      1. He mean The debut race.

  4. It will be a real test for Stoffel now he won’t be driving in the fastest car on the grid. Looking forward to the season!

    1. Given that Toyota has dominated SF for years, he’ll definitely have a tougher time there than most people anticipate. Then again, maybe it’s a situation he should get used to before coming to race for Honda in F1.

  5. Testing needs to be done for things you’re not certain about. Vandoorne is one of the most gifted drivers of the last 5 years, he was ready in 2014! If he does not get a seat in 2017 he should break ties with McLaren because as far as I can see they’re doing nothing more than wrecking youngsters their careers. Sure they brought in Hamilton but after than not much else.

    1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
      24th March 2016, 18:09

      @xtwl – Why not before 2017? There is a Ferrari seat on offer and the Scuderia is resolutely lacking credible affiliated drivers. That is ironic, because if there is a team that doesn’t like promoting unknown quantities then it is Ferrari. They would have have no hesitation in promoting Bianchi, an affiliated driver they had evaluated, much as they had no hesitation in promoting Massa from Sauber, and yet, for some reason replacing Kimi with a Le Mans winner or the only driver to ever beat Vettel in the same car seemed too risky. However this year the decision cannot simply be postponed, and with the FDA on its knees, Ferrari are going to have break convention and take an educated leap in the dark with a Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Ricciardo or Bottas.

      If I was Vandoorne I would recognize Ferrari’s cultural aversion to unknown quantities and make quiet advances towards Kimi’s seat. Of course, if Ferrari opt for the current frontrunner, Ricciardo, then Vandoorne will have severed his ties to McLaren for nothing and promptly committed career suicide, but, unlike McLaren juniors, Ferrari juniors have access not just to two race seats, but six (Ferrari-Ferrari, Sauber-Ferrari, Haas-Ferrari). Unless he can obtain contractual certainty that he will replace Button for 2017, the FDA might be Vandoorne’s best option.

      1. @william-brierty I’d love the idea of Ferrari snatching away Vandoorne. Call it payback for how McLaren did the same with Pérez.

        However I think Ferrari has got it nailed down pretty much already. If Kimi does not improve in 2016, and he’ll be told he won’t get a contract next season, they’ll move on and put Grosjean in the car.

        Givne how Vandoorne has no money (No way in hell he’ll find money in either Flanders or Wallonia), it’ll be McLaren-Honda or bust for him. It’s a shame really he’s not on the grid already.

  6. Anybody who knows how to follow Super Formula on a screen ? Live, highlights or streaming ?
    (I’m living in Belgium btw..)

  7. The car is basically a GP2 chassis with a lot more downforce, a bit more power & better tyres.

    I watched some of the races last year via a youtube channel & I didn’t think the racing was really that good, Following in the corners is just as hard as in F1 because of the downforce levels & as a result overtaking is very difficult & you don’t really see much of it. The other interesting comparison to F1 of old is that the super formula has refueling & all of the negatives that people aimed at it when it was allowed in f1 are present here in that the fuel strategy is the most important factor of every race & as a result 95% of all the action & passing occurs during the fuel stops with very little happening on the track.

    here is the youtube channel-

    1. also they dont have on-car cameras for the live broadcast’s which takes away from the coverage a bit.

  8. The camera angles are better than F1 though and the racing looks more frantic. The drivers tend to go for it a bit more too.

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