McLaren’s program of testing multiple drivers in its IndyCar is set to continue with its former Formula 1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne in the coming months.
Vandoorne raced for McLaren in F1 in 2017 and 2018 before both he and Fernando Alonso left the team to be replaced by Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris. Since then he has been a race-winner in Formula E for the Mercedes EQ team and runner-up in LMP2 at Le Mans, while retaining F1 links as Mercedes test driver and acting as one of McLaren’s reserves.
As the 29-year-old explores future options, plans are being developed for Vandoorne to test the IndyCar, just as fellow ex-F1 racer Nico Hulkenberg did at Barber on Monday.
“We’ve been public in saying that our ambition is to be a three-car team in ’23, so I think we’re looking at ’22 as a bridge year,” Arrow McLaren SP president Taylor Kiel told RACER. “So we’re not committing to anything at this point, but we’re evaluating all options at the same time.
“So in an ideal scenario, we’d run as many races as we can do (with three cars), but again, it’s got to be the right fit from a personnel and a driver point of view. It’s not financially motivated, so that gives us a lot of flexibility in decision-making.
“Really, the ball’s in our court. There’s been a lot of interest, there’s been a lot of people that certainly have been knocking on our door, but we’ll work through it and figure out what’s best for our program.
“For sure, we have (had F1 interest), and I think it helps to have our family over in the F1 paddock, too. So Stoffel has obviously got some connections with the team and is actively engaged with the team as a reserve driver, so that was kind of a no-brainer. I think we’ll try to do something with him.
“He’s certainly a talented race driver, but we’ve had people reaching out from all over the place. It’s an exciting time, for us as a team and an organization it’s just the growth trajectory that we’re on at the moment. So a lot to digest, a lot to go through, but certainly a lot of exciting prospects.”
The main issue with confirming the test for Vandoorne is a logistical one, with certain venues finding it tough to accommodate an IndyCar test due to prior bookings.
“No date, we’ve had discussions – as we have with quite a few other people – but the hard thing is finding track availability,” said Kiel. “Honestly, it’s really difficult.”