Background: Why Vandoorne was never successful in Formula 1

Background: Why Vandoorne was never successful in Formula 1

14-08-2022 10:58

The career of Stoffel Vandoorne is one of highs and lows. The Belgian was seen as one of the greatest talents in the sport, but tensions within McLaren and a bad car prevented Vandoorne from living up to his potential in Formula 1. On Sunday, the 30-year-old driver proved himself by winning the Formula E world championship.

McLaren impressed

Like all other famous drivers, Vandoorne started his career in karting. The young Belgian was very successful and won several championships. His talent also caught the eye of the McLaren Formula 1 team. Vandoorne became part of the British team's Young Driver Programme in 2013, which also included Kevin Magnussen and Nyck de Vries at the time.

From 2014, Vandoorne started working as the reserve driver at McLaren and participated in his first GP2 season (now Formula 2). The Belgian managed to win several races, but finished behind champion Jolyon Palmer. In 2015, he drove another season in GP2, impressively taking home the championship. Vandoorne finished just five times off the podium in his second season and won the GP2 title by 160 points.

F1 debut Vandoorne

In 2016, Vandoorne was allowed to take part in an F1 race for the first time when Fernando Alonso had not recovered in time after a severe crash at the Australian Grand Prix. Vandoorne made an immediate impression during his F1 debut by finishing tenth. It was the first point of the season for McLaren.

After Jenson Button 's retirement, Vandoorne signed a contract with McLaren for 2017 and became Alonso's teammate. The young driver was seen as the next big talent in the sport, but his time at McLaren was anything but easy. In fact, Vandoorne found himself in an awkward situation. The cooperation between McLaren and Honda was dramatic and there were also internal problems at the British team. The Belgian had to spend his time in F1 in a terribly poor car and little progress was made.

Vandoorne was allowed to continue driving for McLaren in 2018, but due to disappointing results Vandoorne lost his seat to junior driver Lando Norris. However, his results were also partly due to the poorly performing McLaren car, but Vandoorne did not get the chance to prove himself again. Team-mate Alonso also called it a day and left the sport at the end of the season.

Not only did the poor relationship between McLaren and Honda and the dramatic car make for a difficult time, but with Alonso as a teammate, Vandoorne was immediately up against one of the best drivers ever in F1 in his debut season. The Spaniard finished ahead of Vandoorne in every race in 2018, but you can wonder if other young drivers would have done better alongside the two-time world champion in the McLaren car.

Vandoorne successful in Formula E

Vandoorne was not given a second chance with another team, but the Belgian remained active in F1 as a test driver for Mercedes. In 2020, he signed a contract as reserve driver for the successful team, a role he still holds today. After losing his F1 seat, Vandoorne made his Formula E debut in the 2018-2019 season with the team HWA Racelab. In his second season, Vandoorne left for the new Mercedes team, along with rookie Nyck de Vries. He won his first race in the sport and finished second in the drivers' championship behind Antonio Felix da Costa.

In the following season, Vandoorne finished only ninth in the standings and teammate De Vries ran away with the world title. However, the Belgian came back strongly this season with consistent results. He finished second in the final race of the season, securing the world title. Vandoorne is the successor to former world champion De Vries. After his damaged reputation in F1, Vandoorne showed that he was not seen as a great talent for nothing.

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