To be blunt, irrespective of circumstances Stoffel Vandoorne did not make it in Formula 1 and thus he takes his career to Formula E, although the likeable Belgian acknowledges that his qualifying was not up to scratch this season his race pace was right up there with highly rated McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso.
Facts are Vandoorne has been obliterated in qualy all year by Alonso, a streak that stretches into last season and, according to stats, in race conditions he was not much better.
Although Vandoorne has 12 points, Alonso has fifty with two rounds remaining in the championship, he is adamant that it is not as bad as it seems.
The 26-year-old told Motorsport-Magazin, “Fernando is of course very good and I don’t have to explain his qualities. They speak for themselves. I agree last year in qualifying I was probably more competitive than this year.”
“A few issues we had with our car in terms of handling made it difficult to make small performance improvements this year. I think that’s probably why I did not seem so competitive in qualifying.”
“But of course there are other things that have happened, which is why it did not look so good to me, however in the race we were always extremely close to one another,” explained Vandoorne.
Stoffel: I wouldn’t say that I had a mental problem with it but it’s a different approach as you build the weekend
Drivers moving up the ladder to Formula 1 race in one-make series such as Formula 3 and Formula 2 where equipment is pretty similar, margins between the best car package and the worst not huge. In Formula 1 the gulf between the best teams and the back of the grid is massive – two seconds or more in qualy and race trim.
For the past two years (and more!) McLaren have been anchored to the wrong end of the timing screens which may have been a shock to Vandoorne who has always been used to driving cars with race winning potential.
As a champion in just about everything he raced, he was asked if the reality of not being able to win in F1 impacted his psyche, he replied, “I wouldn’t say that I had a mental problem with it but it’s a different approach as you build the weekend.”
“Maybe there are things you do differently if you’re not fighting for victory or championship. Your focus is on other things when it comes to preparing your weekend. It’s definitely a different approach.”
The reality is that the team that groomed him for Formula 1 and gave him the break were not convinced that Vandoorne is the real deal for the future of the team and have instead opted for Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris to spearhead them into the future.
Stoffel: The one thing I know is that I’ll be fully committed to this Formula E
Vandoorne’s quality is still appreciated and thus it did not take long for the Mercedes affiliated Formula E team HWA-Racelab to snap him up.
Asked if this meant the end of the Formula 1 dream, “That’s difficult to say and something I can not really answer 100 percent at this point.”
“All I can say is that my time at McLaren was definitely not the best time. McLaren has given me a lot of opportunities in all the time I’ve been with them. I came to them in 2013 as a Young Driver and they supported me in all the junior series and finally gave me a racing cockpit.”
“But I think the timing was wrong. The performances we have had over the past two years were the worst two seasons in their history. I would have preferred to have a real chance and to fight at the top.”
“For example, this year I have the feeling that I drove really, really good races. Better than some races last year, but they simply were not rewarded in the same way. And it’s hard for people to recognize that when you’ve done a really good race and you’ll be 13th or 14th.”
“For you personally, it was actually a good feeling, but it was not rewarded with points and nobody got to see how good it really was, but that’s how it goes.”
Stoffel: From the first contact with Toto I was more or less willing to do it
“The one thing I know is that I’ll be fully committed to this Formula E season once I’ve finished the final race in Abu Dhabi and my commitments with McLaren. Then I will focus 100 percent on achieving something good in Formula E. It’s also a pretty unique opportunity I have there to be with one of the biggest teams.”
“And it will be a completely new challenge. I do not really know what to expect there at the moment. The tests in Valencia are so difficult to read in terms of the balance of power. The conditions were not very representative when it came to track layout and how it worked. It is just a little unknown. But I am optimistic and looking forward to discovering it.”
He continued by explaining how the HWA deal came about, “My first contact was actually with Toto [Wolff]. It was around Monza. On one of the weekends, he called me and explained to me the whole program they are doing with HWA and, of course, what the team is going to do in the future.”
“After that, there was not really any doubt that this could be a really good opportunity for me. Although I did not know 100% of what my future would be like with McLaren at the time, but that soon became clear. However from the first contact with Toto I was more or less willing to do it,” revealed Vandoorne.