Stoffel Vandoorne sets sights on 2017 McLaren F1 seat

© Getty Images

Stoffel Vandoorne has set his sights on securing a seat in Formula 1 with McLaren for the 2017 season, but concedes that he may explore other options if a role is not freed up.

Vandoorne won last year’s GP2 title in emphatic fashion, racking up seven victories to win the championship with almost double the score of nearest rival Alexander Rossi.

For 2016, Vandoorne will move to Japan to race in Super Formula in order to keep him race-ready and sharp ahead of a possible F1 promotion next year.

Vandoorne said that he is targeting a seat in F1 for 2017, ideally with McLaren, but remains focused on the coming year and proving himself in Super Formula.

“It’s still a bit early days, we’re only at the start of 2016,” Vandoorne said. “But yeah obviously during the course of the season I’ll have to focus on 2017, and that’s definitely the time where I want to be in Formula 1.

“Hopefully that will be with McLaren, that’s where I would very much like to be. I’m contracted to them as well.

“But yeah, if there’s no space here, then if there are any other options available, then I have to consider them.

“But at the moment it’s still too early to know anything about that.”

Vandoorne said that he feels like he is stepping into unknown territory by entering Super Formula, but is confident that it is the right move to ensure he is still sharp and keeps racing through 2016.

“I feel like I’m stepping a little bit into the unknown,” Vandoorne said. “However I feel I have a good team around me, it’s Docomo Team Dandelion, it’s one of the best Honda teams. They’ve had good results in the past and I feel that’s the right place to be with the support of Honda.

“Obviously it’s a big championship. There’s quite a few big names, European guys as well, quite a few good Japanese drivers who have been there for a long time, and I think that makes it very tough to go in there and beat them from the word go.

“It’s going to be a tough ask but I’ll do my work as usual which I’ve done in every other series. What the result will be is very difficult to say but the main thing is that I can drive something this year and really be prepared for 2017.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.



Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III