Domination is the only word to describe Stoffel Vandoorne’s 2015 GP2 Series campaign. The Belgian currently enjoys a 108-point lead over nearest rival Alexander Rossi with three rounds left to run in the season.
Vandoorne entered the series at the beginning of last year, winning on debut at the first race in Bahrain. He then went on to win three more times and finished the season 47 points behind 2014 champion Jolyon Palmer in his rookie season.
We sat down with the McLaren junior at the Singapore Grand Prix to have a chat about his GP2 supremacy and his future in Formula 1.
You’ve dominated GP2 this season, what’s changed since mid last season where ART’s form kind of slumped?
Well I think we got everything together since the middle of last year. We had a good first half of last year but we had a few mistakes from either my side or the team’s side, so the car sometimes wasn’t 100%. So we really worked hard together to get on top of everything and by the end of last year we had a very strong car almost in every session and we carried that through to this year.
Does that come down to communication between you and your engineers in terms of the car setup?
Yeah definitely, when I first came to ART there were a lot of things we worked on during the winter tests then during the first part of the season we made a lot of changes until we finally got something that was very good. So yeah I wouldn’t have been able to do it without a good team, already their standard is very high at ART, it’s one of the benchmark teams in GP2 and I think together we’ve created something very good.
Were you able to pinpoint where the dip in form happened? You started the season off so well with a win in your first race but then the form sort of dipped.
Yeah well I know why now, there were a couple of things we did wrong at those races last year. The strategy wasn’t always right and there were a lot of things that just didn’t go 100% and GP2 requires 100% or else you’re quickly down the order, so everything has to be perfect and that’s what we try and achieve now is that every time we go for practice we try and have everything as good as possible and yeah it’s been working pretty well so far.
You’ve only had one race this year where you’ve dropped out of the points and that was the Silverstone Sprint Race. You finished well in the Feature Race but what happened in the Sprint?
I think Silverstone is probably one of the worst races for us this season, we didn’t win there last year, and this year we didn’t really correct the problems we had from last year, so we found ourselves struggling with the same issues. I think it would have been possible to score points in both races but we didn’t unfortunately. We didn’t really have great starts which made me lose some positions and then our performance wasn’t 100%.
Who do you see as your main competitors in the GP2 Series as well as heading into Formula 1?
It’s difficult to say, I mean my main rival in GP2 has been Alex Rossi and he’s got the drive now with Manor, so I’m pretty happy for him, he’s one of the good guys as well so yeah we’ll see. I’m mainly concentrating on myself and trying to get there, trying to win GP2 and trying to secure a seat in Formula 1 next year.
What are those chances next year of securing a Formula 1 seat?
Well at the moment nothing is decided yet on next season, I definitely want to be in Formula 1, that’s what I’ve been working for ever since I was a kid, and yeah I do feel that there are opportunities out there, I would love to race for McLaren, the drivers aren’t decided yet here. So hopefully in the coming weeks we get some more information about that.
There are two seats vacant at Haas F1 for next year, any talks with them?
No my main focus is with McLaren at the moment, it’s a team I’ve been with for three years now and we’ve had a very successful relationship up until now, so hopefully that can continue for a few more years.
Does the current performance of McLaren concern you at all?
Yeah definitely, as we’ve said already you have to be the lead team when you work together with an engine supplier, and having McLaren-Honda working together now is the way we have to go forward even if we have to go through pain, we are going through pain now, but this is unfortunately how it is at the moment. Hopefully we get there sooner rather than later, I think for the future it’s the best thing we can do.
Hypothetically, if Jenson [Button] decides to stay a couple of more years, where will that leave you? Because obviously you want to be racing.
Yeah, I’m a racing driver so I definitely want to race, but as I said at the moment nothing is decided for next year. So I’m really 100% focusing on this now, and if for some reason it doesn’t work out we will have to look if there are opportunities elsewhere.
Which series do you think has prepared you best as a driver for Formula 1?
I think both of the series have something positive. A World Series car has a lot of downforce and it’s a car you can push every lap in the race so you really have to push hard. GP2 I would say is a lot more technical, so it’s good to prepare you for Formula 1. You have the Pirelli tyres, you race on the same weekends in Formula 1 as well, and I think it’s a bit more difficult than World Series, but both are definitely very good and are good preparation. We’ve proven with the actual grid that a lot of drivers come out of GP2 and a lot come from World Series.
Do you think you were ready for a Formula 1 drive last season? Did you feel that another year in GP2 was necessary?
Well I was definitely ready last year, but you know doing another season in GP2 isn’t a disaster. I think if I look back at it now it’s maybe been a good thing. I’ve been dominating GP2 and that’s always what I wanted to do since day one so yeah, I’m not really looking back at the past to be honest, it’s better to focus on the future now.
What’s the plan for the rest of the season? Wins all the way until the end? Or just focus on securing the championship?
Well it’s difficult to say, I’m just going to continue doing as I have since the start of the season. If we can win we’re going to try and win so the most important thing now is not to do stupid things, not to lose the championship and just wrap up the title as soon as we can, then we can have a good end to the season.
Images via GP2 Series Media