Stoffel Vandoorne scored McLaren’s first points of 2016 in Bahrain with a 10th place finish after he was called up to replace a shaken Fernando Alonso following his huge crash with Esteban Gutierrez at the season opener in Melbourne.
The Belgian showcased his potential and will partner Alonso at McLaren in 2017. Vandoorne finds himself with a race-seat at a vital time for team, who are hoping to work their way up the under under Zak Brown with a continually improving Honda power-unit.
Vandoorne is planning on spending the winter in training so he is best prepared for the workout that the 2017-reg cars will punishingly give.
“I think next year’s cars are going to be a bit more challenging to drive, because the aero and new tyres should make them a couple of seconds quicker per lap than the current cars. They’ll be physically tougher – so I’ll be working with my trainer: we’re going on a few winter training camps to get myself as well prepared as possible for the first test.
It’s still a bit difficult to know exactly what to expect – we don’t yet know how tough these new cars will be – but I think that’s good. When things get difficult for everybody, that can make a bigger difference. So let’s see.
The biggest challenge will be training the neck – it’s the hardest muscle to train; it’s difficult to simulate the g-forces. And, no matter how much you train during the winter, at the end of the first day back in the car after the Christmas break, you always end up feeling knackered.”
– Stoffel Vandoorne
Vandoorne also revealed the race weekend that he’s looking forward to the most, adding,
“The season as a whole will be the highlight, of course. But, in terms of races, there will be Spa-Francorchamps – my home grand prix and my favourite track. It will also be the first time I’ll race there in Formula 1, and I know there’ll be a lot of fans and members of my family there too – I’m really looking forward to it.”
– Stoffel Vandoorne
McLaren go into 2017 with ambitions of surpassing their 2016 result and catching the top three. Force India and Williams might have something to say about that with surely similar lofty ambitions, but McLaren simply need to improve to reclaim some of the glory that has been missing from the team in the hybrid era.