Stoffel Vandoorne’s services will not be retained by McLaren beyond the end of the 2018 Formula 1 season, the team and driver have mutually announced.
His drive will be taken by the team’s reserve driver Lando Norris who will be teammate to Carlos Sainz Jr. – the Spaniard was recently announced as the replacement for Fernando Alonso.
The hardly unexpected decision underlines the Belgian’s Formula 1 career as a story of unfulfilled potential. Signed to McLaren’s development program, he romped to the 2015 GP2 Series championship title and scored almost double the number of points earned by runner-up Alexander Rossi.
Signed as McLaren’s reserve driver in 2016, he made his Grand Prix debut that year in Bahrain in place of Fernando Alonso who was sidelined following his horrific accident at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. Vandoorne finished a promising tenth in the race.
He earned a full-time drive with McLaren in 2017 in place of Jenson Button. The Honda-powered McLaren was once again an uncompetitive package and Vandoorne achieved three points’ finishes and six retirements over 21 races in an underwhelming debut season.
McLaren kept an unchanged line-up but switched to Renault power for 2018. The 26-year-old has had a wretched season in an admittedly poor car, being consistently outperformed by teammate Alonso; he is the only driver on this year’s grid never to outqualify his teammate. Vandoorne has just three points’ finishes – all earned within the first four races of the season – and sits 16th in the Drivers’ Championship standings with 8 points to his name. By contrast, teammate Alonso has scored 44 points.
“We’re immensely thankful for Stoffel’s dedication, hard work and commitment during his time at McLaren,” Zak Brown, McLaren Racing’s CEO, said in a media release.
“He’s a talented racing driver with an incredible list of accolades in his junior career. We’re proud to have played a part in his break into Formula 1, from his role as Test Driver to his fantastic points-scoring debut in Bahrain in 2016.
“It’s clear we haven’t provided Stoffel with the tools to show his true talent, but throughout our relationship he’s proved to be a fantastic team player. His work ethic is impressive, he has a great reputation within the team and we’ve really enjoyed working with him.
“Of course, we would have loved to achieve more success during our time together, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that he will always be a part of the McLaren family of Grand Prix drivers.”
Vandoorne added: “While we haven’t achieved the success we’d all hoped for, I’ve really enjoyed the past two seasons racing for McLaren and I have a great relationship with everyone in the team.
“My time [here] has been a great chapter in my career and I’m thankful for the opportunity the team have given me. I intend to give it my all for the remaining races of this season, and will announce my plans for next season in due course.”
Image via McLaren Media Centre