Vandoorne felt 2017 was ‘last chance’ to get F1 seat

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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.”

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.