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Vandoorne confirms McLaren test and reserve role for 2016

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GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne has confirmed that he will take up a test and reserve role with parent team McLaren for the 2016 Formula 1 season.

Vandoorne wrapped up the GP2 championship in Russia last month, but missed out on a possible seat with McLaren in F1 after the team opted to retain veteran driver Jenson Button for 2016.

Given that GP2 champions are not permitted to return to the series, Vandoorne looked poised for a year on the sidelines much like current McLaren reserve Kevin Magnussen experienced in 2015 unless he took one of the remaining seats with Manor at the back of the F1 grid.

In an interview with McLaren’s official website, Vandoorne confirmed that he would be taking up the reserve role with McLaren for 2016 in place of the outgoing Magnussen, but is also working on a deal to keep racing.

“I definitely want to race something next year, but what it will be we don’t know yet,” Vandoorne said. “There’s definitely some options though, and we’re talking about them.

“I’m going to be test and reserve driver at McLaren anyway, which is a good position to be in. Obviously I want to race something next year as well, to say sharp, to stay fit, and to stay focused, so we’ll see what comes out.

“And if you stay sharp, fit and focused, then if any opportunity arises in F1 you’re 100 percent ready to jump in.”

Vandoorne is set to test a Super Formula car ahead of a possible race seat in Japan’s leading single seater series to complement his McLaren reserve duties.

“I’ll be doing a Super Formula test in Japan soon. The Super Formula car is definitely a good car – it’s at least as quick as a GP2 car or maybe even quicker.

“As I say, as I’m McLaren’s test and reserve driver next year, but I want to keep racing alongside that, and I think Super Formula is one of the options, but it’s not decided yet whether I’m going to do it or not.”

Hamilton: McLaren could help create four-team F1 title fight in 2018

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Lewis Hamilton says the Mercedes Formula 1 team cannot afford to let up in its push to improve ahead of a fiercer fight at the front of the field in 2018 – potentially including former team McLaren.

Hamilton clinched his fourth F1 drivers’ title in Mexico at the end of October as Mercedes continued its perfect record of championships since the introduction of the new V6 turbo hybrid engines in 2014.

The team faced a stiffer challenge in 2017 thanks to a resurgent Ferrari, while Red Bull also posed a threat towards the end of the season, setting the stage for another close fight next year.

Hamilton is expecting both Ferrari and Red Bull to remain a force at the front of the pack, but also feels McLaren could join the fight after ditching Honda in favor of a Renault engine supply for 2018.

“When I’m training and preparing for a new season, I firmly believe that we can be contenders for the next championship. It may turn out to be not possible, but you have to have that mindset,” Hamilton said.

“If you go in with expectations of finishing fifth, it’s not going to work. You’ve got to gear yourself up to win.

“Next year, McLaren will have Renault engines, then we may see four teams fighting for the championship. I think Red Bull will be quicker and Ferrari for sure will be fast again.

“We can’t stand still – we have to keep moving forwards.”

Hamilton started his F1 career with McLaren back in 2007, winning his maiden world title in 2008 before leaving the team for Mercedes at the end of the 2012 season.