[F1 2018 NEWS FEATURE] STOFFEL VANDOORNE: UPPING HIS GAME

McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne heads to Australia for the start of his second season in F1, and knows he needs to up his game.

The Belgian was outqualified by Fernando Alonso last year 14-5, and outraced 5-1 when they could be compared. Though he finished 2017 just four points off the champion Spaniard’s tally.

His debut season only made tougher by McLaren’s unravelling partnership with Japanese manufacturer Honda.

SOUNDBITE (English) STOFFEL VANDOORNE,
F1 DRIVER, McLAREN:
“Last year was probably not the year we were kind of expecting as team, obviously started off very difficult. We made some good progress through the season. I think from a personal point of view it was a tough start for myself.”

And while Vandoorne struggled initially with adapting his driving style from the junior categories to F1, he improved in qualifying, finishing the season less than two tenths of a second adrift of Alonso on average.

SOUNDBITE (English) STOFFEL VANDOORNE,
F1 DRIVER, McLAREN:
“Very good progress throughout the year, and I think near the end of the year matching Fernando and playing a very close level field with him - that was very good.”

This year, Vandoorne has to close the gap even further, but he’s certainly shown what he’s capable of in the recent past.

He dominated GP2, forerunner to Formula 2, with seven wins, finishing the 2015 season 160 points ahead of runner-up, Alexander Rossi.

…while he made his F1 debut standing in for Alonso at the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix, outqualifying Jenson Button first time out, and scoring a point.

No doubt Alonso’s incredibly busy racing calendar will make things just a little easier this time around but Vandoorne is the real deal and is ready to fight to prove it.

SOUNDBITE (English) STOFFEL VANDOORNE,
F1 DRIVER, McLAREN:
“I had a very good winter behind me. A lot of preparation work. And I really feel much more comfortable as well, with all that experience behind me. I know straight from the word go where to start from and I’m ready to attack this season.”