GP2 Series champion Stoffel Vandoorne remains optimistic about his chances of securing a drive in Formula 1 for next season, but admits that a decision needs to be made about his future shortly.
Vandoorne clinched the GP2 title in Russia last weekend after finishing fourth on Sunday, giving himself an unassailable lead with four races remaining.
The Belgian had been linked with a drive at McLaren, his parent team, in 2016 after the dominant nature of his GP2 championship success. However, the British squad opted to retain its existing line-up of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso.
Nevertheless, Vandoorne remains hopeful of securing a seat on the grid in 2016, and is pleased to have the GP2 title sewn up so he can turn his attention to defining his future.
“Hopefully Formula One,” Vandoorne said when asked what his next step would be. “It’s something I’ve been working on for quite some time, and now to have the GP2 title here is a bit of a luxury I would say with two rounds to go.
“The next [race] is in over a month, so I can concentrate on preparing next year which is great.
“Unfortunately, nothing is decided for the moment, but I’m optimistic. I feel there are some chances out there. The next days and weeks are going to be crucial for next year.”
With F1’s driver market remaining largely static for 2016, the only chances of a race seat for Vandoorne come at Lotus (soon to become Renault), Manor or Haas.
However, Ferrari’s relationship with Haas and Mercedes’ new partnership with Manor could put paid to his chances of getting a seat with those teams, leaving Renault as the only feasible option.
The French manufacturer may be keen on bringing in a more experienced driver to partner Pastor Maldonado, though, and McLaren might be wary of letting its great junior talent driver join one of its on-track rivals.
For the time being though, Vandoorne is happy to bask in his GP2 championship success and reflect on a year of dominance.
“I would say from a personal point of view, it’s definitely the best season I’ve had,” Vandoorne said. “I’ve always had the speed since the beginning of my career, but over the years, I wasn’t always putting everything together although I was always finishing quite high in the championships.
“Still, there were always bits I needed to improve on. Even now, there are some things I can improve on! But this year, I was able to put everything together.
“Last year, I think my weakness was the sprint races. I was losing ground there. This year, we managed to finish twice on the podium almost every weekend. I think it’s where I’ve improved a lot.”