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.