Vandoorne elevated to reserve driver role at McLaren

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After promoting Formula Renault 3.5 champion Kevin Magnussen to a 2014 race seat, McLaren has elevated another member of its Young Driver Program – Belgian racer Stoffel Vandoorne – to the role of reserve driver behind Magnussen and former World Champion Jenson Button.

“I plan to take my responsibilities as McLaren Mercedes’ official Formula 1 reserve driver very seriously indeed, since I very much enjoy immersing myself in the technical aspects of Formula 1 Grand Prix weekends,” Vandoorne said in a McLaren release.

“I’ll do whatever I can to help the team’s two Formula 1 race drivers, Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen, both of whom are great guys and superb drivers, to achieve as much as they possibly can this season.”

McLaren sporting director Sam Michael was, as you’d figure, high on Vandoorne’s talent, calling him “fast, combative, consistent, intelligent and ambitious.”

“His technical input is first-class, he’s excellent in our simulator, and he isn’t afraid of hard work,” Michael said. “He has a collaborative and engaging manner, and he’s therefore as popular at McLaren as he is helpful.”

Vandoorne finished second to Magnussen in the FR3.5 standings this past season with four wins and 10 podium finishes. In 2014, he will combine his McLaren duties with a full-time program in the GP2 series for the ART Grand Prix team.

The French squad has fielded GP2 championship-winning cars for Nico Rosberg (2005), another ex-World Champion in Lewis Hamilton (2006), and Nico Hulkenberg (2009).

During GP2 and GP3 post-season testing at Abu Dhabi last fall, Vandoorne starred on the GP2 side by setting the fastest lap of the three-day session. He had never driven a GP2 car prior to that test.

Hartley to make F1 debut from back of grid after penalty

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Brendon Hartley’s hopes of a points finish on his Formula 1 debut took a hit on Friday after the FIA confirmed the Toro Rosso driver will start the United States Grand Prix from the back of the grid due to an engine penalty.

Porsche factory driver and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Hartley was drafted in by Toro Rosso as a surprise replacement for Pierre Gasly in Austin, with the Frenchman tied up with Super Formula duties at Suzuka this weekend.

Hartley took to the track in an official grand prix session for the first time on Friday in Austin, marking his first run-out in an F1 car since a test with Mercedes in 20120.

However, FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer confirmed in his pre-race report that changes had been made to the power unit on Hartley’s Toro Rosso car since the last race in Japan, triggering a grid penalty.

Toro Rosso elected to take a new internal combustion engine, MGU-H, energy store and control electronics on Hartley’s Renault power unit, totaling a 25-place grid drop that will be applied after qualifying. Confirmation of the penalty is set to follow later today.

The penalty comes as a setback for Hartley, but was necessary as Toro Rosso found itself short on engine elements to get to the end of the season.

Hartley is not the only driver to have a penalty confirmed, with Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne also taking new engine elements, also confirmed in Bauer’s report.

A new ICE, turbocharger and MGU-H for Hulkenberg will see him drop 20 places on the grid, while an eighth ICE of the year for Vandoorne will trigger a five-place drop.