McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown has urged Toro Rosso to take Stoffel Vandoorne as one of its race drivers for 2019 after replacing him with Lando Norris.
Vandoorne (pictured at right with Brown, above) has struggled in his two years alongside Fernando Alonso at McLaren, with the Belgian currently having failed to outqualify his teammate this season. On Monday it was announced that Norris would replace the 26-year-old as part of an all-new driver line-up next season, but Brown believes the situation at McLaren has not helped Vandoorne and wants Toro Rosso to take him on.
“I definitely think he’s a Formula 1 caliber driver and if I was Toro Rosso — who appear to have two open seats — I’d put Stoffel in in a heartbeat,” Brown said. “I think we’ve had a very poor race car for two years. Someone like Fernando can adapt quicker, he’s got so much experience. Stoffel was very close to Fernando — a lot closer than some other teammates as Fernando commented.
“Stoffel is an outstanding race car driver. Ultimately we look to the future and feel Lando’s a future star. I think in a different environment Stoffel may excel more, and with a better race car. If I look at his debut races, beside Bahrain which was an impressive debut, but the 2017 season he was going to racetracks and losing practice sessions … so I’m not sure he ever really got the opportunity to get into a groove.
“When you have a teammate like Fernando who can draw on that experience and I think is recognized as one of the best guys out there, Fernando’s going to adapt to that situation quicker.”
Brown says he has been actively trying to find Vandoorne an F1 seat for 2019, saying he has made calls to other teams.
“Yeah, I already have and anything we can do to help Stoffel, we would help him in a heartbeat. We consider him family — he’s been outstanding to work with. Hopefully he lands in Formula 1, that’s where I think he deserves to be, but we have some other racing activities that you guys know we are reviewing and I wouldn’t hesitate to keep Stoffel in the McLaren family if there was a seat available and he had a desire to race in it.”
Asked if that made it realistic that McLaren’s current F1 line-up could become its IndyCar line-up next year, Brown replied: “Ha! Highly unlikely.”