Stoffel Vandoorne must look elsewhere for an F1 seat in 2019, after it was announced he will be replaced at McLaren by Lando Norris for next season.
Having been promoted to a race seat at the start of 2017, Vandoorne has struggled to match Fernando Alonso and is currently yet to outqualify the Spaniard this season. With just eight points to his name compared to 44 for his teammate, Vandoorne had been told by McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown that he needed to improve his performances in order to retain his seat but after qualifying last in Belgium and Italy, the 26-year-old will not be retained in 2019.
“We’re immensely thankful for Stoffel’s dedication, hard work and commitment during his time at McLaren,” Brown said. “He’s a talented racing driver with an incredible list of accolades in his junior career. We’re proud to have played a part in his break into Formula 1, from his role as test driver to his fantastic points-scoring debut in Bahrain in 2016.
“It’s clear we haven’t provided Stoffel with the tools to show his true talent, but throughout our relationship he’s proved to be a fantastic team player. His work ethic is impressive, he has a great reputation within the team and we’ve really enjoyed working with him. Of course, we would have loved to achieve more success during our time together, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that he will always be a part of the McLaren family of grand prix drivers.
“For now, we look to the future and to the remaining grands prix in 2018, where I know both Stoffel and Fernando will be pushing hard to fight for as many points as possible before we close the curtain on this season.
“We wish Stoffel all the best in whatever direction he chooses to take next in his career, and we’ll be supporting him all the way.”
2015 GP2 champion Vandoorne says he owes McLaren for the way it brought him through the ranks into F1, having supported him since early 2013.
“I’m very grateful to McLaren for investing their faith in me over the past five years,” Vandoorne said. “I joined McLaren as a young driver and have since seen my career progress within the team from test and development driver to reserve driver and then to full-time race driver.
“While we haven’t achieved the success we’d all hoped for, I’ve really enjoyed the past two seasons racing for McLaren and I have a great relationship with everyone in the team.
“My time at McLaren has been a great chapter in my career and I’m thankful for the opportunity the team, Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa and Mansour Ojjeh have given me to gain valuable Formula 1 experience and develop as a driver. I intend to give it my all for the remaining seven races of this season, and will announce my plans for next season in due course.”
Vandoorne has been linked with a switch to Sauber in 2019, with Charles Leclerc understood to still be under serious consideration for a promotion to Ferrari in place of Kimi Raikkonen.