In the end, McLaren have decided they’ve seen enough of Stoffel Vandoorne. It’s a shame because the litmus test was Stoffel’s pace against Fernando Alonso who is one of the very best and few have that pace. Equally, the better test may have been Stoffel’s pace against Carlos Sainz in a McLaren because that’s what Lando Norris will have as his measuring stick and no offense to Carlos, but he’s not Alonso.
Stoffel thanked McLaren and his fans and there are precious few seats left in F1 for 2019 so it remains to be seen as to if he can find another ride. Rumors of a possible seat at Sauber or possibly Williams but both of those would most likely be fought for by 18-year-old drivers with lots of cash in which to buy their ride.
With such a recalcitrant car, part of me believes that Stoffel got lulled into a malaise of static mediocrity and couldn’t find the fire an passion to drive above the car’s station. Alonso did that but he’s a veteran and an exceptional talent. Stoffel was new to F1 and had no benchmark on how to handle the situation in a manner that would secure his future on the grid at this team or any other. How does he parlay mediocre results from a pig of a car and keep his star shining brightly to entice other teams to take a gamble on him?
If Stoffel were finishing there or thereabouts with Alonso, he would be slotting in 9th thought 12th. Would that have kept him his ride? And what of Lando? Will 8th through 12th also appease McLaren or will he be faster than Sainz? If that happens, maybe McLaren should have kept Stoffel instead of signing Carlos.
It’s a tough world in F1 and to be honest, I don’t think we ever really got to see the real Stoffel Vandoorne. The one that scored points for McLaren his first time int he car. If I were Claire Williams and Lance Stroll leaves in the next few weeks, I think I would ask McLaren to borrow Stoffel and try him out for the remainder of the season. McLaren would most likely be happy to put Lando in early and then perhaps we could measure him against Alonso too. Nothing against Robert Kubica but Stoffel, in my opinion, might just need to find the right team and environment to shine. McLaren hasn’t proven to be the right environment for any driver for several years.
McLaren is delighted to announce that Lando Norris will complete McLaren’s driver line-up for the 2019 season.
Lando, 18, from Somerset, UK, is McLaren Test and Reserve Driver and is contending the 2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship. He currently sits second in the championship, having won on his Formula 2 debut from pole position, with four races from two events remaining.
Lando will partner Spaniard Carlos Sainz, 23, at McLaren in 2019, as part of a multi-year agreement with the team. Although 2019 will be Lando’s first season racing in Formula 1, he is no stranger to McLaren or F1 machinery.
Lando has been part of the McLaren Young Driver Programme since early 2017, when he officially joined the team as Test and Simulator Driver. Since then, Lando has regularly conducted race simulation work for the team and also participated in Formula 1 testing – in Abu Dhabi in 2017, and Spain and Hungary in 2018. Most recently, he has driven in the first free practice sessions in both Belgium and Italy.
In his early career prior to joining McLaren, Lando rose rapidly through the ranks in junior racing categories, winning the Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup, Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup and the Toyota Racing Series Championship all in 2016, in addition to five karting championships in the four previous years. Last year, he contested the European Formula 3 Championship, which he won at the first attempt.
Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing, said:
“We’re very pleased to finally be able to reveal who will complete our driver line-up at McLaren for 2019.
“We believe Lando is an exciting talent, full of potential, who we’ve very deliberately kept within the McLaren fold for exactly that reason.
“We already know he’s fast, he learns quickly, and has a mature head on his young shoulders. We see much potential for our future together. The investment we have made in his budding career with simulator development and seat-time in the car has been well-deserved, as he has continued to prove his abilities both behind the wheel and in his work with the engineering team.
“Lando is an integral part of our plan for rebuilding our Formula 1 operation for the future, and he has already developed a strong relationship with the team.
“In Lando and Carlos we have an impressive duo who, despite their relative youth, hold valuable experience in Formula 1 and with McLaren, and represent the next generation of McLaren drivers to lead the team forward. While our short-term focus is fixed on securing the best possible result for the remainder of the 2018 season, we’re also massively motivated by the opportunities that lie ahead.”
Lando Norris said:
“To be announced as a race driver for McLaren is a dream come true. Although I’ve been part of the team for a while now, this is a special moment, one I could only hope would become reality.
“I’d like to thank the whole team for this amazing opportunity and for believing in me. I’m also extremely grateful for the commitment McLaren has already shown in my development, allowing me to build my experience in a Formula 1 car in both testing and on Fridays during the past two race weekends.
“For the remainder of 2018, my focus remains firmly on the Formula 2 championship. My objective is to win the title before joining McLaren full-time, which will be tough, but I will fight as hard as I can for the remaining four races. I’ll also be working closely with McLaren at every opportunity to learn as much as possible from the drivers, engineers and mechanics to give myself the best preparation ahead of next year.”