Former McLaren Racing Formula 1 driver and current Mercedes-EQ Formula E racer Stoffel Vandoorne completed his maiden NTT IndyCar Series test on Monday with Arrow McLaren SP at Sebring International Raceway’s popular short course.
The Belgian posted a best lap of 53.1952s, putting him third among the four drivers in attendance. Meyer Shank Racing’s Nyck De Vries, Vandoorne’s Mercedes-EQ Formula E teammate, was fastest with a 52.5526s lap in the No. 60 MSR Honda.
“I think it’s been a very good day, we’ve managed to really cover a lot of laps, I think 139,” Vandoorne told RACER. “Obviously, for my first experience in IndyCar, I had a great day. It was a nice car to drive, powerful, a lot of downforce, a lot of grip. So it was quite full on, a lot of a lot of runs, test items which we managed to complete. In that regard, it was a very successful day. And from my side as well, every run, I felt more comfortable in the car.
“You know, the car is quite specific in the way you have to drive it; you’re fighting the wheel a lot through the lap, the way you brake into the corners is quite important.”
Like many others who’ve sample an IndyCar without power steering for the first time, Vandoorne was impressed by the physicality required to hustle the Dallara DW12-Chevy.
“It’s definitely a beast of a car to drive, it’s a big car, it’s heavy on the steering, and it throws you around over the bumps,” he said. “I was mentally prepared for that. I’ve spoken with a lot of a lot of drivers, (AMSP’s) Felix Rosenqvist being one of them. I got through today without any issues. For sure, the steering is very hard, but I didn’t struggle with it towards the end of the day. My neck, I felt a little bit, but nothing out of the order.
“I put a lot of preparation work into this before coming to test these cars. Felix told me just focus on arms; do a lot of a lot of weights in the gym. Over the last month and a half, when I knew I was going to do the test, I adapted my training.”
With one more year remaining on his Mercedes-EQ Formula E contract, Vandoorne says he’ll leave Sebring with a better understanding for what the future could hold if an IndyCar team comes calling.
“Now I’ve got a bit more of a clear idea what IndyCar is about,” he said. “I have already said before that IndyCar is something I’m looking at; I think the series is growing a lot. There’s some competitive teams here, cars are great to drive. I felt comfortable in the car, which is the main the main thing, and who knows what the future is going to bring?
“With Mercedes in Formula E, our season is about to start in January and finishes in August. But after that, I have no plans yet. I’m not quite sure what the future will bring, but after today’s test, I have definitely a very positive impression with the car and the series and the way the racing is in America.”