For Stoffel Vandoorne, it became a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ in his quest for racing in Formula One. That ‘when’ occurred after he was called up from his reserve role to deputize for the injured Fernando Alonso on the McLaren team at Bahrain in 2016.
Vandoorne began his motorsport career at six years old in 1998 and earned his first race and championship victories in national karting series. He went on to finish runner-u in the KF2 World Cup in 2009. During 2010, he went into the F4 Eurocup series scoring six victories as he wrapped up the title with two rounds in hand. He joined the McLaren Young Driver Programmeme in 2013 after he became the vice-champion with four wins in the 3.5 series in 2013.
Stoffel joined the McLaren team as their Formula One reserve for 2014 and combined that with a maiden GP2 campaign with ART. He ultimately finished second to Jolyon Palmer after four victories and 10 podiums. In a continuous momentum, Vandoorne proved to be unstoppable in 2015 as he solidified seven wins, 16 podiums, four pole positions, and five fastest laps as he landed the series title in dominant fashion.
Vandoorne’s Formula One debut came in early 2016, when, deputizing for Fernando Alonso, he scored a point in his one-off Sakhir outing. He combined his reserve role with a season in Japan’s highly competitive Super Formula finishing fourth overall after two wins. His biggest prize of the year, however, was landing a full-time race drive with McLaren for 2017, stepping into the sizeable shoes of Jenson Button.
As an F1 rookie, he scored 13 points to Spanish teammate Alonso’s 17 in what was a tough final year of McLaren’s revived Honda partnership - and duly retained his drive alongside the two-time champion for 2018.