When Lewis Hamilton joined McLaren as a rookie , he shook the Formula One paddock and his very experienced Spanish teammate. Now, Vandoorne finds himself in a pre-season identity crisis as he is compared to the greats before turning a wheel in 2017.
Fernando Alonso has already made it clear that he doesn’t see Vandoorne as a threat and his reacted in a way that suggests working together will be more beneficial given the team’s expected targets for next season. When Lewis Hamilton was fighting Alonso, race wins and a possible driver title was at stake. In 2017, podiums will surely be the pre-testing target as the team look to do better than their midfield finish in 2016.
On the comparison to Lewis Hamilton, Vandoorne said,
“I do not want to be Hamilton. I want to be Vandoorne and I’ll give my maximum. I do not expect anything from the relationship between Fernando and I
I didn’t exactly get advice from Fernando and (Jenson) Button until now, but I was always close to them at the circuit, watching and trying to learn. But I have my own style.”
– Stoffel Vandoorne
Vandoorne did score McLaren’s first point of 2016 when standing in for a shaken Fernando Alonso in Bahrain. The pressure of expectation from outside the team will be felt by the Belgian driver, but the expectation of the team as a whole will be under the microscope much more.
Given McLaren’s slightly knee-jerk scapegoating in recent seasons with Kevin Magnussen and particularly Sergio Perez, Vandoorne will be hoping he can make a better impression as the team look to improve.