McLaren confirms Vandoorne will take Alonso’s place

2016 Bahrain Grand Prix

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Stoffel Vandoorne will make his Formula One debut as a substitute for the injured Fernando Alonso in this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, McLaren has confirmed.

“McLaren-Honda reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne will be in Bahrain on Friday morning ready to deputise,” the team announced on Twitter. “Following any on-track incident, we will always abide by the FIA doctors’ decisions.”

Vandoorne is the team’s reserve driver and the reigning GP2 champion. He first joined McLaren as part of their junior driver programme in 2013 before being named reserve driver the following year.

Vandoorne’s testing duties for McLaren included being the first driver to shake down one of its Honda-powered cars at the end of 2014. He is due to compete in the Japanese Super Formula Championship this year driving a Honda-powered car.

The FIA entry list published on Thursday confirmed he will race using number 47 when he makes his debut this weekend.

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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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    53 comments on “McLaren confirms Vandoorne will take Alonso’s place”

    1. A very very exciting prospect!

      1. Not at all – a depressing prospect considering that Alonso against would not be able to score points a 2nd race in a row. A crash from which he walks away instantly and then the doctors says he has issues two weeks later, though he was clearly ruled as fit at the post-accident medical checks in Australia.

        Nothing makes sense…

        1. Alonso has a broken rib. It makes complete sense that he can’t race.

        2. Under the circumstances.

    2. Who was it that predicted Stoffel to be called in to replace Alonso in their season’s predictions? I just hope he will have a better time to it than Kevin had last year when he replaced Fernando in Australia last year!

      1. ColdFly F1 (@)
        31st March 2016, 12:22

        Who was it that predicted Stoffel to be called in to replace Alonso in their season’s predictions?

        @andae23 predictions
        and @petebaldwin, @tommy260z, @jmwalley (50%)
        Congratulations guys.

    3. Alonso has had his fair share of knocks recently. I hope he’s ok. I would fear that like in AFL players, things can add up.

      If it weren’t for the circumstances I’d say I’m very excited by the prospect of Vandoorne being on track.

      1. Right? Next thing he’ll grow a gut, make a drunken nuisance of himself at the driver’s trophy ceremony and do guest appearences on commercial radio stations.

    4. Exciting. Stoffel is familiar with the track as well, excelled in GP2. I hope he would left everyone in the paddock scratch their head after the weekend.

    5. Have wanted to see Vandoorne get his F1 chance for a while but it’s a shame it had to be in circumstances like this.

      1. @keithcollantine Have McLaren ever gave any reason why he’s not more frequently participating in FP? Surely if Palmer deserves 10 FP sessions Vandoorne should get one here and there.

        1. Palmer got his outings thanks to his wallet. I support Vandoorne getting Friday drives every now and then but I guess McLaren needs experienced drivers more to develop their car.

        2. Fudge Ahmed (@)
          31st March 2016, 12:10

          @xtwl you try telling Jenson Button to sit out a practice session. Now times that by 25 and add samurai swords and try telling Alonso to sit out a practice session. Not going to happen unless it’s the driver’s own calls and/or for medical reasons, both are too high profile.

          1. Fikri Harish (@)
            31st March 2016, 13:11

            I lol’ed.

          2. I feel Alonso will make a decision by the end of this season and if all goes well for Vandoorne I reckon he would have no problems handing over the reigns. Though this will probably come down to whether or not Button agrees to stay on as lead (development) driver as the team would obviously need the experience going into the next few seasons.

        3. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
          31st March 2016, 14:05

          @xtwl @keithcollantine Vandoorne not only deserves FPs, but given that McLaren’s sponsors clearly think the Frome charmer is an indispensably marketable commodity, why would a Klien-Liuzzi-style shared drive not have worked? Heikki Kovalainen and Sergio Perez has robbed McLaren of its boldness when it comes to young drivers…

          1. @xtwl @william-brierty Because selling time in practice sessions is usually only what cash-strapped teams do to raise money. It’s the same reason you never saw Wehrlein in a Mercedes on Friday mornings last year.

            1. @keithcollantine Did Bottas pay for his sessions or was this genuine preparation?

            2. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
              31st March 2016, 21:24

              @keithcollantine Putting Wehrlein in for FP1 would have corrupted what little competition for the win there was. Neither Di Resta, Bottas, Marciello, Calado, Ricciardo or Vergne brought budgets, but all got FP1 mileage. Q.E.D. the teams do occasionally use FP1 sessions as evaluative mileage.

      2. Yep exactly @keithcollantine. He’s in at the deep end, for sure, but quality. Shame for Nando, but I suppose we have to think it could have been a lot worse.

    6. A few seasons ago having a chance to make your F1 debut in a McLaren would be seen as gold dust. It’s a real shame for Stoffel that is no longer the case. Still, it is an excellent opportunity for him. He gets to measure himself against a world champion and a proven race winner on a circuit he knows well. If the MP4-31 holds together he has a good chance of making a good impression this weekend.

    7. So what number will he use? I still haven’t worked out how the ‘substitute numbers’ work…

      1. He’ll get an actual number

      2. ColdFly F1 (@)
        31st March 2016, 12:42

        I believe rule 9.2 applies, @olliej.
        “Any new drivers, either at the start of or during a season, will also be allocated a permanent number in the same way.”
        Therefore it will not be one of those ‘shared numbers’ P1/P2 ‘guest drivers’ can use.

        1. Not sure at that one, just look at Lotterer (Spa 2014), Rossi (Sotchi 2014) or Stevens (Abu Dhabi 2014), which all used teams allocated to their teams (Rossi and Stevens ofc got their own number later on when they were “permanent” race drivers, as in more than just one race).

          My guess is 47, that’s what he used at the Pirelli wet tire test earlier this year.

          AFAIK that is a number allocated to McLaren for substitute and test drivers. Since it’s only planned to have him in for one race, I don’t think he will get an actual number.

    8. Exciting prospect but such unfortunate circumstances that have allowed it.

      Perhaps as the season extends to more and more races that many are saying stretches them too far with time away from home wildcard races could be introduced with effective mandatory B-teams. Young drivers, apprentice engineers and so forth.

    9. Glad Stoffel gets a chance, although not the best of circumstances.

      Had McLaren chosen anyone else, I would have gone mental!

      1. @eurobrun I fully expected Ron to wheel out Wurz or de la Rosa

      2. @olliej @xtwl
        Or indeed as Ron referred to last year, his other young McLaren prospect, Nick Heidfeld!

    10. The Blade Runner (@)
      31st March 2016, 12:55

      This is really exciting news. I hope the car is good enough this weekend to let him shine.

    11. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
      31st March 2016, 12:57

      A horrible incident for Fernando has at least given a much deserved chance to a chap who, together with Max Verstappen and Esteban Ocon, will likely come to be among the defining championship contenders of the next generation. Just as a snapshot: Stoffel has three GP2 feature races at Bahrain, and won all of them, including his first race in the series. He has a higher junior category win rate than even Lewis Hamilton for pity sake…

      I wouldn’t rule out him out-qualifying Jenson this weekend, then the world will know what has been apparent to me since he first race in a FR3.5 car back in 2013…

      1. Means next to nothing if they’re still doing elimination qualifying. How far they get in qualifying depends on McLaren (and other teams’) tyre strategy, and how competent and lucky they are at following it through.

        1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
          31st March 2016, 16:00

          @bullfrog Decent point, well made – elimination qualifying resembles a game of Countdown more than a sporting spectacle…

    12. Go Stoffy..!!

    13. I echo the comments above.
      Sorry for the way it came to exist, but excited about stoffel.

      The boy is fast and Jenson will have to watch out.

    14. Two shunts at the beginning of two consecutive seasons doesn’t make me happy to see Vandoorne race. What’s going on with Alonso? He was perfectly alright after the accident and all along the two weeks didn’t complain at all of any effects and now this bolt from the blue. I sure am finding it hard to believe the FIA’s version of things. They also need to be more specific on what exactly the health issue is – they can’t just say chest, CT, stomach, leg, etc.

      Two races without a chance to score points for Alonso :( :(

      1. I know this is purely anecdotal, but I fractured a rib in a bicycle accident, but didn’t notice for a few days, because I was sore in many other places. Once the soreness started to subside, the rib injury became much more apparent.

    15. Flanders represent!

      1. And hereby Belgium represent!

        1. Go Belgium:)

      2. Exciting times, 1.5 drivers on the grid!

      3. Isn’t it amazing that two of the top rising stars in F1 are from the same small piece of land in a tiny country in Europe?

    16. Magnussen vs Vandoorne rd 1 finnaly happens. Ron will prove right or wrong this weekend

      1. 1 race, never driven the car v someone in a different car…the result will not prove Ron Dennis right or wrong or we could throw Perez into the mix.

        1. then you’ll need to throw Withmarsh in to the mix

    17. Am I dreaming, or is this real? We’ll know if it’s true by Sunday afternoon (hoping his car wont suffer from a mysterious failure). Magnussen is just another dams champion, lets see what stoffel is made of.

    18. Michael Brown
      31st March 2016, 16:07

      Glad they didn’t pull a Lotus and acutally used their reserve driver

    19. There is McLaren history with the number 47. Bruce McLaren used 47 on his Cooper alongside Jack Brabham in the 1964 Tasman Series.

    20. He is a new choice at predictions table also and an very interesting one!

    21. Hans van Voonebosch
      31st March 2016, 22:18

      GP2 driver, fits the GP2 engine in the McLaren well

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