McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne is preparing for his final F1 drive with the team, and the Belgian has admitted that he has "mixed emotions" about the prospect of leaving the team he's been a part of for five years in total.
The 26-year-old blew everyone away on his debut in Bahrain 2016, when he was flown in to replace the ill Fernando Alonso. He read the steering wheel's manual on the flight over to Bahrain but needed no time to adjust in the car, as he finished within the points that very weekend.
The former Formula 2's future looked very bright at that stage, and at the end of that 2016 season, he was given a permanent seat at the team for 2017. In the two seasons he drove in the papaya-orange cars, Vandoorne's obvious talent simply hasn't come out. He hasn't beaten Alonso in qualifying since October last year, and although he's had some good races, he is still surplus to demands at this point.
“I’m heading to Abu Dhabi with mixed emotions,” Vandoorne told Crash.net.
“Although I’ve spent two years as a Formula 1 driver with McLaren, I’ve been with the team for five years and call many of them my friends.
“I’ve built a great relationship with McLaren and it’s been a significant part of my life. My final grand prix as a McLaren driver on Sunday will be sentimental, but also the right time to say goodbye to this chapter in my career.
“I want to leave Abu Dhabi on a high, so we’ll be putting everything we can into maximising our weekend and getting the most out of it. I have great memories from Abu Dhabi in my junior career, and it’s a really cool atmosphere as you race from day into night.
“I’m excited for the next challenge – which begins in only a few weeks – but I also want to enjoy every moment in the car and with the team this weekend for the final time.”
The 26-year-old will join the Mercedes-funded Racelab team in Formula E in 2019.