Stoffel Vandoorne believes that 2017 was his “last chance” to make the step up to Formula 1 with McLaren after spending the past two years waiting in the wings for a seat.
McLaren announced over the Italian Grand Prix weekend that Vandoorne would be moving into a full-time race seat for 2017 alongside Fernando Alonso following Jenson Button’s decision to take a sabbatical.
Vandoorne had been knocking on McLaren’s door for a seat for some time, particularly after winning the GP2 title in 2015.
The Belgian got his F1 debut in Bahrain when Alonso was injured, scoring a point, but was otherwise left to spend the remainder of the year racing in the Japanese Super Formula series.
“I don’t know what discussions were going on behind the scenes, but I remember a year ago when I was finishing GP2 that, of course, there were a lot of rumours around that I might get the drive already for 2016,” Vandoorne explained to the official F1 website.
“It didn’t happen back then, but yes, I remember all the hype surrounding it. And to be honest I was a little disappointed at the beginning – it was a tough moment for me to understand that F1 would have to wait another year.
“But I kept my head cool and won the last two GP2 races that season and actually broke the record in that series. I knew it was best to give the answer on the track.
“Sure, time is always pressing in a driver’s career, so I knew it had to be next year – as it was probably my last chance of getting to F1.”
Vandoorne said that it was a “big relief” to be confirmed in a McLaren seat for 2017, believing his preparation to have been served in junior championships.
“I have spent so much time with this team already and had a lot of success already in the junior series,” Vandoorne said.
“The team has really been preparing me for Formula 1 for years – and now we both want to get rewarded.
“This is an environment where you have to perform and I am used to that demand. So no surprises in that respect.
“I had to win championships to move forward, otherwise I would not be here. You might say that I grew up in a pressure environment.
“Yes, F1 is a bit more in every respect, but I have enough self-confidence to know that I can handle it.”