Vandoorne: Everything I’ve done is about preparing for 2017

Stoffel Vandoorne is chomping at the bit to get his first full season as a Formula 1 driver underway, and admits everything he is doing these days is with an eye on racing for McLaren in his rookie season.

He told his team’s website, “Everything I’ve done up until now has been about preparing for next season. It’s still a very long way away, and there are still a lot of things to go through before I get in the new car for the first time. I can’t wait to get in the car to begin winter testing.”

Vandoorne made his grand prix debut in Bahrain last year, replacing injured Fernando Alonso, and promptly scored points in his first race for the team. But he is aware that the 2017 cars will be totally different prospect.

He pointed out, “I think next year’s cars are going to be a bit more challenging to drive. Because the aero and new tyres should make them a couple of seconds quicker per lap than the current cars.”

“They’ll be physically tougher – so I’ll be working with my trainer: we’re going on a few winter training camps to get myself as well prepared as possible for the first test. It’s still a bit difficult to know exactly what to expect.”

“We don’t yet know how tough these new cars will be – but I think that’s good. When things get difficult for everybody, that can make a bigger difference. So let’s see.”

“The biggest challenge will be training the neck – it’s the hardest muscle to train; it’s difficult to simulate the g-forces. And, no matter how much you train during the winter, at the end of the first day back in the car after the Christmas break, you always end up feeling knackered.”

As for McLaren’s new car, the 24 year old Belgian said, “I’ve seen it on a computer screen – just a 3D model. It’s quite different to what the cars look like now. it looks very cool, very futuristic – especially with the wider tyres and bigger rear wing. When you look at the CG model from the rear, it looks very aggressive. They’ll look cool.”

As for the number two he has chosen to carry in his F1 career, Vandoorne explained, “I chose it because it was the first number I had when I started racing in single-seaters – in Formula 4 Eurocup 1.6, back in 2010. I didn’t choose the number, it was just given to me, but it was a good year for me – I had a lot of victories and a lot of podiums – so it has positive memories for me.”

For Vandoorne his rookie season will be packed with milestones, “The season as a whole will be the highlight, of course. But, in terms of races, there will be Spa-Francorchamps – my home grand prix and my favourite track. It will also be the first time I’ll race there in Formula 1, and I know there’ll be a lot of fans and members of my family there too – I’m really looking forward to it.”

Jérôme d’Ambrosio was the last Belgian driver to compete in Formula 1 in 2011 and 2012. Vandoorne will partner veteran Fernando Alonso in the McLaren team this forthcoming season