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‘Never any doubt’ for Vandoorne over 2018 McLaren F1 deal

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Stoffel Vandoorne says there was never any doubt over his 2018 McLaren Formula 1 deal given the confidence the team has shown in him despite a rocky start to his first full year in the sport.

Vandoorne stepped up to a full-time race seat with McLaren for 2017 following Jenson Button’s move back from F1, but the Belgian has recorded just one points finish so far this season.

Ongoing problems with McLaren’s Honda power unit have left Vandoorne struggling to make an impact, with teammate Fernando Alonso leading the team’s charge.

McLaren confirmed earlier this week that Vandoorne would be racing for the team “as planned” in 2018, with the Belgian claiming there were never any question marks over his plans for next year.

“No, there never has been any doubt. The team has been really supportive in the difficult times,” Vandoorne said.

“Obviously I’ve been with McLaren for the past couple of years as a young driver and then as a reserve driver, so they know my capabilities.

“They know the effort I’m putting in with the team and it’s good to see that the team is 100 per cent behind me and I’m definitely looking forward to the future with them.”

Vandoorne did not sugar-coat McLaren’s start to the season, but is confident of a better back-stretch starting with this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.

“For us, it’s not been a great start to the season, especially with all the trackside problems we have,” Vandoorne said.

“We missed quite a lot of track time, but lately everything has gone in a good direction. Felt more and more comfortable with the car, with the handling suiting a little bit better my style as well.

“The last races have been positive. I’m matching very close with Fernando in qualifying and in the races as well.

“I’m definitely sure that the second part of the season will go in a good direction again.”

McLaren almost back on schedule with 2018 F1 car after delay

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McLaren is almost back on schedule with its 2018 Formula 1 car development after losing two weeks due to a delay in deciding on its engine supplier, according to racing director Eric Boullier.

McLaren confirmed back in September it would be cutting ties with Honda at the end of the year after three difficult seasons, favoring a switch to Renault power units.

The decision was not taken lightly by McLaren, causing it to lose two weeks in the development of next year’s car, but Boullier confirmed in an interview with the official F1 website that the team is almost back on-track.

“Maybe we made the decision to change the engine manufacturer two weeks too late for our schedule, but these two weeks have almost been recovered,” Boullier said.

“Any big decisions are always difficult to take. The concept of McLaren winning with Honda was a dream for everybody, yes – it was a beautiful story.

“Today we have huge respect for them and we definitely don’t divorce with fights and screams and finger pointing. We are all very professional – and in the end it was a business decision, which they understand.

“There is a sadness that it didn’t work out like we wanted. McLaren-Honda in terms of brands was a good fit – in terms of results it didn’t work.

“That’s what it is in the end. Now we have to see that we get back to competitiveness – back to the top!”