Stoffel Vandoorne, last year’s dominant GP2 Series champion and the current McLaren-Honda reserve driver, has been ruled out of a Formula 1 race seat in 2016.
The Belgian – who claimed a record-breaking seven race wins en route to winning the 2015 GP2 Series title – will continue with his role at McLaren at all Formula 1 races, as well as stay race-fit by contesting the Japanese Super Formula open-wheel championship season.
Formerly known as the Formula Nippon championship, the Super Formula series is the country’s top open-wheel racing series’ and increasingly considered as one of the best proving grounds for aspiring Formula 1 drivers.
Racing in a spec chassis designed by Dallara , the Super Formula field is powered by either Honda or Toyota two-litre turbo engines capable of producing around 550bhp. The cars are considered to be quicker than GP2 Series machinery.
Vandoorne will race for the Honda-powered Docomo Team Dandelion Racing operation, replacing former F1 driver Narain Karthikeyan.
The latter has moved to the Le Mans Company team as teammate to another former F1 driver, Kamui Kobayashi.
The field also features two other ex-F1 drivers in André Lotterer and Kazuki Nakajima, who are teammates in the Toyota-powered championship-winning Team TOM’s outfit.
Images via GP2 Series Media and Kinja