SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Stoffel Vandoorne is taking heart from the example of Danish driver Kevin Magnussen, who was dropped by McLaren early in his Formula One career but still bounced back.
The Belgian said in Singapore on Thursday that he had been told on the day after this month’s Italian Grand Prix that his seat was going to British teenager Lando Norris next season.
Vandoorne has nothing else lined up, but nor had Magnussen when McLaren discarded him in 2015. The Dane joined Renault in 2016 when Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado had problems with sponsorship just before the season started.
Magnussen moved on to Ferrari-powered Haas in 2017 and will be celebrating his 75th grand prix in Singapore this weekend.
“Kevin has been through this situation and I think he really benefited from a fresh start. I feel a little bit the same, to be honest,” Vandoorne told reporters.
“It’s been two difficult years and not having had the tools to really fight for anything. So I’m trying to make the most out of what is left this season and then actually looking forward to a fresh start.”
Vandoorne, 26, joined McLaren as a hot prospect in 2017 after dominating the 2015 GP2 support series but his arrival coincided with a slump for the sport’s second most successful team.
While he has scored only eight points this season, his double world champion team mate Fernando Alonso — also departing — has 44.
“I think I’ve been at McLaren for probably the two most difficult or worst years of the history of McLaren. So there’s not really much more I can say about that. It’s a shame it didn’t work out,” Vandoorne said.
“This is the way it is sometimes. It’s a shame I didn’t get better opportunities.”
Despite team boss Zak Brown suggesting Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso should snap up his discarded driver, somewhat to Vandoorne’s bemusement, that looks unlikely to happen.
His best bet could be Sauber, if they do not take Ferrari-backed Italian Antonio Giovinazzi or keep Sweden’s Marcus Ericsson, where French team boss Frederic Vasseur is an old friend.
“To be honest there’s not a lot of opportunities left on the grid for next year…but until everything is fixed you’ve got to keep believing and keep trying,” Vandoorne said.
“I’m still that same driver that can drive a car pretty quick…I think a lot of people in the paddock know what I can do. I think I just need to be in the right environment and then I’m pretty sure I can deliver.”
(Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ed Osmond)