Doors are hard to open and easily closed in Formula 1 but Formula E champion and former McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne is ruling nothing out, even if a grand prix comeback looks unlikely and electric racing is now his main focus.
The 30-year-old Belgian has a presence in both series this season, racing for the DS Penske Formula E team while serving as Aston Martin’s F1 reserve once that championship starts in March.
Vandoorne, who won his Formula E title with the now-departed Mercedes for whom he was also an F1 reserve, sees it as “a perfect combination”.
His predecessor at Aston Martin Nico Hulkenberg, now 35, leveraged the reserve role into a race return with U.S.-owned Haas.
Former Mercedes F1 reserve Nyck de Vries, the 2021 Formula E champion, will be racing in Formula 1 for Red Bull-owned AlphaTauri.
At Aston Martin Vandoorne will be supporting Spain’s 41-year-old double world champion Fernando Alonso, his 2017 McLaren team mate, and Canadian Lance Stroll.
“You can never say never,” the Belgian told Reuters from Saudi Arabia, where Formula E races this Friday and Saturday and where he was recently appointed ambassador for series airline partner Saudia, when asked about unfinished business in F1.
“You just simply don´t know what´s going to happen in someone´s career over the next couple of years, but I´d say my focus is on Formula E. I´m just trying to do the best I can here, on track.
Important for a driver to perform in track
“I think for a driver its always the most important to perform on track and then people suddenly are interested again, let´s say.
“So my focus is on Formula E to try and win races, win championships here and then pretty much it´s out of my control, it´s out of my hands.”
Vandoorne, who started 41 grands prix for McLaren from 2016-18 with a best finish of seventh, definitely wants to go faster.
Formula E’s new ‘Gen3’ car should be quicker than it was on its race debut in Mexico this month, he said.
“They´ve got 100 kilowatts more power (than Gen2), they´re about 60 kilograms lighter but the biggest change is the tyres. The tyres just have less grip than we had last year,” he explained. “More power and less grip is not necessarily the perfect combination.”
Formula E has switched from Michelin to treaded Hankook tyres this season and getting them in the right ‘window’ is no easy matter.
“The cars are challenging to drive, they are moving around a lot, very hard to put the laps together but ultimately we all want the cars to be quicker,” said Vandoorne, who was 10th in that Mexico City opener.
“It should be quite easy to make them a handful of seconds quicker. Maybe just put a slick tyre on it. They´ll immediately gain five or six seconds probably over a lap and then people will look at it more seriously.
“I feel like they need to make a big jump in performance.” (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)