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.”
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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