Vandoorne: 'It's not my mindset that I have to be in an F1 car’

Vandoorne: 'It's not my mindset that I have to be in an F1 car’

7 March - 19:00 Last update: 19:53

For Stoffel Vandoorne it is an important and interesting year. Not only is the Belgian one of the favourites for the drivers' title in Formula E, the former McLaren driver is still without a seat beyond the year, so his future is therefore at stake. Will he commit to a longer stay in Formula E? Or will it be IndyCars or even Formula 1 again?

As his team Mercedes delivered the Driver's Championship with Nyck de Vries last year and also won the Constructors' title with Vandoorne, the Belgian is in an ideal position to race and secure success in 2022. His fourth year in Formula E provides him with the chance of victory. "I think we have a chance to win both championships again this year. Last year I had some bad luck and lost a lot of points in some incidents. But it was still a very positive season. This year we have every chance to be up front.''

You are the favorites, aren't you?

"I think we are the favorite. That's normal when you won both championships last year. So everyone expects us to be the favorite, but we certainly shouldn't underestimate it. The competition is very strong. We have our sister team Venturi which is also very strong. Then you have Jaguar and Andretti, who have good drivers and cars. The margins are so small that you can never really predict who will be at the front in a weekend."

Qualifying in Formula E has been changed. Last year, it was often a lottery. Now there is a knockout system, where you can win the pole through a final. What do you think of that?

"The new qualifying system is definitely a big step forward. Now you know that every qualifying session you have the chance to be at the front. The possibility of starting in the top ten every race is much bigger. Last year, at some tracks, if you were in the first qualifying group, you knew in advance that there was no chance to be in the first fifteen. So that changes the mindset."

Will you be racing in other classes this year?

"No, for now I don't do anything else besides Formula E. We'll have to wait and see how this year goes. There are a lot of changes within FE, with the Gen3 cars coming next season. And of course Mercedes will stop racing in Formula E after this year, so it will be a busy year, in a different way. Not with the driving itself right away, but to ultimately determine my future."

Do you already have any insight into what you want to do next year?

"I know more or less what I want to do. But at the moment there is nothing concrete yet. Hopefully the future of the Mercedes team will also become clearer. Then there will soon be an evolution about my future."

It is possible that after four seasons you might want something else?

"That depends. I did an IndyCar test with McLaren this winter. That was definitely a very nice experience. But also from this side it is a bit early to know if that is really an option for me. McLaren also has to see from their side if they want to use that third car next season. I am in a nice position in terms of possibilities. For now it is still too early. Actually it is better to wait and see and have more clarity on all the series. Then I have to choose what is best for me."

Will you be a test and simulator driver for Mercedes again this year?

"Yes, it's the same as last year at Mercedes. Nothing changes on that side. So testing, simulator driver and reserve driver."

Do you still see any chance of driving Grands Prix?

"That is very difficult to say. I am a reserve driver and if I have to, I am ready to step in. I have the necessary experience to be able to do that. But I think it only happens when someone is sick or injured. Of course, I don't hope for that. To be honest, I don't think about that much now. I am mainly focusing on Formula E, to have a good season here. I have no control over the rest. It's not my mindset that I have to sit in a Formula One car."

Still, the feeling prevails: 'You still have something to prove in Formula 1'

"Yes, it was a relatively short career of course. The two years I drove at McLaren were not in the best of circumstances. On the other hand, if you get the chance to drive in Formula 1, you have to grab it with both hands. For me, it was perfect timing to have that seat at McLaren. Unfortunately, the car was not competitive enough at that time and we did not really show good results. That is the only regret. That I didn't have the chance in the end in a competitive car."

This year F1 has introduced that rookies can participate in Friday practice. Wouldn't it be good to give drivers like you, guys who have been out for a few years, a chance to show themselves again?

"For me personally it would be nice of course. To gain some extra experience again. For teams as well, to bring the relationship between simulator and reality a bit closer together. That would certainly be positive. But I don't make those rules. At the moment the preference is for the younger drivers who don't have F1 experience yet."

Have you also had a phone call from Toto Wolff, saying, 'Maybe Hamilton will quit and you should get in'?

"No, no. We never talked about that."

What makes the IndyCars appealing to you?

"I think it's a very pure car. It's a car with a lot of power, a lot of downforce. The tracks they have in the US are very rough and bumpy. The way of working is also completely different from Europe. For a European driver it is a challenge to go to America and do something good. They are very nice cars to drive. A bit like Formula 2, with better tyres, more downforce and power."

You would also drive the ovals?

"Yes, if you drive IndyCar, you have to do the whole season, so also the ovals."

In the Netherlands we have the Max Verstappen-mania. When he drives, half the country is crazy. Why didn't that happen with you in Belgium?

"I think in the end it's the mentality of people. The Netherlands has always been a country where the public stands hugely behind their athletes. Of course, that is extreme with Max. But also in other sports, for example football teams, you see that the Dutch fans are very passionate about their country and the sport, and follow you everywhere. In Belgium there is no such effect. That is the case with everything, not only Formula 1. It is with the sport in general. We maybe don't have the passion like the Dutch have for it."

You have the fanboost in Formula E. You always get that, so the Belgians do vote.

"Yes, they do. I have a very loyal and close fan base, who always support me and watch all the races. But it's not the same effect as in the Netherlands of course."

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