Ahead of his home Grand Prix in Belgium, McLaren have revealed that Stoffel Vandoorne will continue to race for the team in the 2018 season.
The 2015 GP2 champion made his debut at the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix, substituting for the injured Fernando Alonso, where he out-qualified regular driver Jenson Button and scored one point for a tenth place finish.
The decision was taken to replace Button for Vandoorne for the 2017 season, but car performance and reliability issues have prevented McLaren from challenging for regular points.
Vandoorne’s best result of this campaign came at the previous round, the Hungarian Grand Prix, where he equalled his best qualifying performance of ninth place before finishing the race in tenth.
The 25-year-old believes that the confirmation of his 2018 seat will help him concentrate on his development.
“I’m delighted that the team has now formally announced that I will continue to race for them next year,” said Vandoorne.
“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.”
McLaren’s Racing Director Eric Boullier confirmed that the announcement was a continuation of a ‘multi-year’ deal with the team.
“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,” confirmed Boullier.
“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.
“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 Technology Group’s Executive Director Zak Brown added that he believes Vandoorne to be a future Formula One champion.
“Echoing Eric’s words, I’d like to add only that 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.”