Outgoing McLaren Formula 1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne has been handed a motorsport lifeline after being announced as the HWA Racelab team’s second driver for the 2018-19 FIA Formula E Championship season.
With the team heavily backed by Mercedes ahead of the carmaker’s full assault on the all-electric series in 2019-20, Vandoorne will line up alongside newly-crowned Mercedes DTM champion Gary Paffett, whose own appointment was announced a week ago.
“I am honoured that HWA have signed me for their Formula E programme,” Vandoorne said.
“HWA are such a great team with a long and successful history in motorsport. All the people I’ve met so far are really passionate about racing.
“Also, it´s great to work alongside such an experienced driver as Gary Paffet. I am pretty sure that we will benefit from each other during the season.”
Vandoorne’s switch to Formula E comes off the back of a horrid season with McLaren in Formula 1. He has only scored eight points this season in the Renault-powered MCL33 and it has been over a year since he outqualified teammate Fernando Alonso.
With teammate Alonso opting to quit F1 at the end of the season, Vandoorne’s own fate was sealed when McLaren opted for an all-new driving line-up by headhunting Carlos Sainz Jr from Renault and promoting reserve driver Lando Norris for the 2019 season.
“Although [the team] are all newbies to the series, I have no doubt that we will have a steep learning curve, it won’t be easy,” admitted Vandoorne.
“My objective is, therefore, to become competitive in the series as soon as possible and to make a good impression.”
The 26-year old Belgian made his single-seater racing debut during the F4 Eurocup in 2010. He then progressed into the GP2 Series within four years, winning the championship title at his second attempt in outstanding fashion in 2015.
A year later, he stepped in as a replacement for the injured Fernando Alonso at McLaren to make his Formula 1 debut during the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix, finishing in the points on his very first outing.
Over the past two seasons, the Belgian racer remained a full-time driver with the Woking-based team but has only managed six top-ten finishes since his points finish on debut.
His brand-new team-mate Gary Paffet, meanwhile, developed into a touring car specialist, winning his first DTM championship as a 24-year old in 2005 and becoming a two-time champion last weekend at the season-ending Hockenheim round.
Paffet also gained Formula 1 experience with McLaren representing the team as a full-time test driver in 2006 alongside Pedro de la Rosa.
Kimi Räikkönen’s departure from McLaren at the end of that year sparked speculation Paffet could be in contention for a 2007 race seat alongside reigning two-time World Champion Alonso, who owuld join the team from Renault. However, with Lewis Hamilton’s spectacular performances in GP2, Paffet was overshadowed by the upcoming British talent.
At 37 he makes a switch back to single-seater racing where he has already gained some initial experience in a Formula E vehicle during a rookie test in Marrakech.
“In Stoffel and Gary, we have two Formula E rookies on our team. However, they both are outstanding racing drivers who have a wealth of experience gained in Formula 1 and in the DTM respectively,” explained Ulrich Fritz, CEO of the HWA AG team.
“Both know how to work in collaboration with the engineers to develop and fine-tune a new racing car. These are precisely the sort of strengths that will count for a lot in our first Formula E campaign. It gives me confidence that we and our two drivers are well prepared for the challenges ahead.”
The duo will make their public debut this week at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia for pre-season testing before Round 1 kicks off at the brand-new Ad Diriyah ePrix in Saudi Arabia on December 15.
|2018-19 FIA Formula E Championship – Provisional Entry List (to-date)|
||Sébastien Buemi||Alexander Albon|
|Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler
||Lucas di Grassi||Daniel Abt|
|Envision Virgin Racing||Sam Bird||Robin Frijns|
|DS Techeetah||Jean-Éric Vergne||André Lotterer|
|Dragon Racing||José María López||TBA|
|Panasonic Jaguar Racing
||Mitch Evans||Nelson Piquet Jr.|
|NIO Formula E Team
||Tom Dillmann||Oliver Turvey|
|Venturi Formula E Team
||Felipe Massa||Edoardo Mortara|
|BMW i Andretti Motorsport
||António Félix da Costa||Alexander Sims|
||Gary Paffett||Stoffel Vandoorne|
Image via HWA AG and McLaren