Stoffel Vandoorne banishes F1 demons by becoming Formula E World Champion

Thomas Maher
Stoffel Vandoorne, Mercedes, wins the Formula E title. Seoul, August 2022.

Mercedes' Stoffel Vandoorne wins the Formula E title. Seoul, August 2022.

Stoffel Vandoorne has said he “left nothing on the table” en route to winning the Formula E World Championship this year.

The Belgian driver has won his first championship since his dominant GP2 Series victory in 2015, after claiming the 2021/2022 Formula E World Championship following a dramatic title showdown in Seoul this weekend.

Vandoorne headed to Korea with a commanding position in the Drivers’ Championship, before a dramatic first race on Saturday saw Mitch Evans come through to take the win and keep his own title hopes alive.

With Edoardo Mortara winning the season finale in Seoul on Sunday, Vandoorne’s second place was enough to take the title as he finished the season on 213 points and 33 clear of Evans.

Vandoorne ends Mercedes’ Formula E stay on a high

Vandoorne has been part of the Mercedes factory Formula E effort since they joined Formula E, having initially signed up to race with Mercedes’ placeholder team HWA Racelab in 2018. Finishing second to Antonio Felix Da Costa during the first year of official Mercedes participation, Vandoorne had to settle for second-best once again last year as Nyck de Vries secured the Drivers’ title.

But Vandoorne has finally returned to the top of a championship, and becomes a World Champion for the first time as the FIA granted the all-electric series the highest accolade ahead of last year’s campaign.

“World Champions, wow. It’s just the best feeling ever,” Vandoorne beamed as he spoke to media after claiming the title.

Vandoorne is set to join DS Penske, alongside Jean-Eric Vergne, for next season, as Mercedes withdraw from Formula E – Korea marked their final race in the championship.

The Belgian driver paid tribute to the team of people he’s worked alongside for the past four years to become World Champion.

“Just look at the season we’ve had, the consistency, the car’s been amazing,” he said.

“The team has done an amazing job, and I think every single one of us deserves this. What we’ve accomplished is special.

Speaking to media after the race, Vandoorne said that it was “his turn” to win for Mercedes after De Vries got the better of him last year.

“When I started this journey four years ago, together with Mercedes, I was very confident that I was going to get the tools available to fight for a world championship,” he told Autosport.

“When you race for a manufacturer like that, they’ve been so dominant in everything they enter. But Formula E is different. It’s not straightforward.

“We managed to win both championships last year with Nyck and the teams’, but this year was my turn. I turned up and I didn’t want to leave anything on the table, nothing.”

Vandoorne only claimed one win out of 16 races, taking victory at the Monaco E-Prix. But he was metronomic in scoring points through the year, and only failed to score once as he finished 11th in Mexico.

“Only one victory but the consistency we showed this year – I think it’s been impressive,” he said.

“We had a beautiful story this season with four of us [in the fight], then that got cut down to three, and then the final two – myself and Mitch [Evans]. So yeah, it’s been an incredible journey and emotional one.”

Stoffel Vandoorne proves his F1 doubters wrong

Having claimed the 2015 GP2 title, Vandoorne was given his F1 opportunity by McLaren as he partnered up with Fernando Alonso between 2016 and 2018.

However, these marked the lowest years of McLaren’s modern history, the infamous (for all the wrong reasons) re-partnering of McLaren with Honda. Vandoorne would score just 26 points alongside Alonso in those three years – the Spaniard managing 121 in the same time period.

As a rookie, Vandoorne’s preparations for F1 were severely compromised by constant reliability issues throughout testing and his first season.

Added to that were McLaren’s handling characteristics that two-time World Champion Alonso was able to work around, something that the rookie Vandoorne wasn’t able to emulate. Curiously, it’s also something that is playing out once again five years later with Daniel Ricciardo struggling for a second consecutive year racing for the Woking-based squad.

CEO Zak Brown would go on to say that Vandoorne “wasn’t aggressive enough” in asking for what he needed during his tenure, while Vandoorne himself would lay the blame for his struggles at the feet of “internal politics” at McLaren.

After three years of toil, Vandoorne’s F1 career was over – his troubled time meaning no other teams were willing to take a gamble on a driver who was in danger of finding himself disappearing from high-end motorsport just as quickly as he’d arrived.

However, since then, Vandoorne has managed to rebuild himself since being ousted from McLaren at the end of 2018 in favour of Lando Norris, and finds himself back at the top of a prestigious motorsport category – vindication for the years of questioning himself at Woking.

Unusually, 2022 has been a big year for several drivers who were dropped from F1 in 2018. Along with Vandoorne becoming Formula E World Champion, Marcus Ericsson won the Indy 500 back in May. He moved to IndyCar after losing his seat at Sauber at the conclusion of 2018.

Brendon Hartley, who was dropped by Toro Rosso that year, also was part of the Le Mans winning trio as Toyota took victory in the Hypercar class.