McLaren has announced that Stoffel Vandoorne will continue to race for the team in 2018, ‘as planned’.
Vandoorne joined the team this season, replacing Jenson Button, and while he has struggled at times, his form has improved and he scored his first points of the year last time out in Hungary.
“I’m delighted that the team has now formally announced that I will continue to race for them next year, because I’ll be able to approach the second half of my rookie season with total focus on the job in hand: namely getting the very most I can out of my car, my engineers, and everything and everyone around me,” Vandoorne said.
“I’ve already learned such a huge amount in the first half of my first season in Formula 1 – from my engineers, from my mechanics, from Eric [Boullier], from Zak [Brown] and from Jonathan [Neale], and also from Fernando [Alonso], who is a brilliant driver and also an excellent team-mate.”
The length of the deal was not outlined, although McLaren reiterated that the plan is for the Belgian to be part of the team for a “number of years”.
“When we announced at the end of 2016 that Stoffel would be a McLaren Honda race driver for 2017, we indicated that our plan was that he’d race for us for a number of years. That plan hasn’t changed, and I’m very happy therefore to be able to confirm that he’ll continue to race for us next season,” explained McLaren Honda racing director, Eric Boullier.
“Like all rookies, he’s had to learn a lot in the first half of his first Formula 1 season, but we have great confidence in him, and he’s getting better and better all the time.
“His team-mate is a tough opponent – that’s an understatement in fact, because he’s arguably the best driver in the sport today – but Stoffel’s robust talent and fierce ambition make us sure that he’ll achieve great successes with us in the future.”
McLaren executive director Zak Brown added: “I regard Stoffel as a super talent – a future Formula 1 world champion in fact – and that’s why I’ve always been adamant that he should race for us on a multi-year basis.
“Before anyone asks me any questions about duration, we don’t want to go into that kind of confidential contractual detail, but let me put it this way: when we signed Stoffel, we intended that he would race for us for a significant number of years, and that remains our firm intention. We all know Stoffel’s potential, and when we have a package fast enough to win grands prix again – and we will – Stoffel will be in the right place to score his first Formula 1 victory.”
Meanwhile, Alonso’s future remains uncertain, with the Spaniard in the final year of his three-year deal with the team. McLaren are keen to retain him, but Alonso recently admitted he may look outside F1 for 2018, if he “cannot see any project that will allow him to fight for wins”.