McLaren test driver Stoffel Vandoorne says that his ambition to race full-time in Formula 1 next season will lead him to investigate other options should McLaren decide not to hand him Jenson Button’s seat.
The Belgian driver, who scored a point for McLaren in Bahrain on his debut and only race with the Woking outfit this year when he replaced an injured Fernando Alonso, is logically targeting Button’s race seat for 2017.
While Ron Dennis has publically expressed his support for Vandooren, he also insisted that a decision regarding McLaren’s drivers for 2017 would come, at the earliest, after the end of the European leg of the season.
In the interim, Vandoorne, who was on duty testing duty yesterday at Silverstone, remains positive for next year, regardless of the outcome decided by his current employer.
“Obviously, I am contracted to McLaren and I really want to be with this team next year,” Vandoorne explained.
” I’ve spent a lot of time here with the engineers and I feel like we’ve really been through the perfect preparation. There’s really not much more I can do, I just need to get the drive.”
But the Belgian is keeping an open mind for 2017, just in case things don’t turn out the way they should, which is often the case in Formula 1.
“I would love to race for this team, but I’ve always said – if for some reasons, which I don’t know, it doesn’t become possible, then I’m positive that there are other options available.”
One likely candidate for Vandooren’s services, should they be made available, would be Renault boss Frédéric Vasseur, who ran the Belgian in GP2 with ART.
The Frenchman had already shown a keen interest in his former driver at the end of last year and would have likely hired him at Renault had McLaren agreed to release the former GP2 champion for 2016.
While Vandoorne awaits for his future to clear up he will be heading back to Japan today and to the Super Formula series which resumes at Fuji this weekend, hoping to keep the momentum going.
“This year I see for me as more of a preparation year for next year. My main focus is still to get a Formula 1 drive next year and I’ve been focused on my role as reserve driver.
“Having a racing programme besides of that is just a good benefit for me, to stay race fit and sharp.”
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