Stoffel Vandoorne’s experience going head-to-head with Fernando Alonso at McLaren leaves him well placed to explain the double World Champion’s “greatness.”
Having descended the Dolomites following some off-season skiing in Italy, Alonso’s 2023 preparations are in full swing with Aston Martin.
The veteran Formula 1 maestro touched down at the team’s base this week, with Alonso sharing some pictures to Instagram captioned “countdown” before Aston Martin followed-up with a montage recapping his first day.
Alonso has moved across from Alpine after two seasons with the squad formerly known as Renault – with whom the Spaniard won both his World Championships 17 years ago.
The 41-year-old’s shock transfer sees him reunited with a former team-mate. Stoffel Vandoorne partnered Alonso for the final 40 races of his frustrating second McLaren stint – finishing two also-ran seasons in ninth and sixth on the Constructors’ standings.
When Alonso retired in 2018, Vandoorne lost his seat too. The Belgian has become Formula E Champion, podiumed at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and worked as Mercedes’ reserve and simulator driver since. For 2023, he will fulfil the same role at Aston Martin alongside Formula 2 champion Felipe Drugovich.
Speaking about his Aston Martin colleague, Vandoorne told Mirror Sport: “The only team-mates I had in Formula 1 were Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso – both world champions, and Fernando a double champion,”
“It’s always great as a young driver coming in to work alongside a very experienced driver. You have to be open minded and see how they approach and build their race weekends. Fernando is one of the greatest to do that. I have a great relationship with him.”
Although he retains close ties to Mercedes after a long stint under the German team’s wing, it’s not only in Formula 1 that Vandoorne had to find a new employer.
Mercedes pulled the plug on their Formula E team ahead of 2023, with Toto Wolff explaining they have decided to pour all available resources into F1.
Vandoorne will defend his Formula E title with the DS Penske team instead, partnering another former Formula 1 driver and double FE champion, Jean-Eric Vergne.
Although the 30-year-old doesn’t expect to make a return to the Formula 1 grid, he is excited about helping Aston Martin challenge for Grand Prix victories behind the scenes.
“It was a natural change. In the last couple of years I had my reserve driver role with Mercedes. I was excited to join Aston Martin on a completely different journey,” the former McLaren man said.
“It’s a team investing a lot of money into the future to try to become one of the leading teams. For me, to be a part of that right now helping to develop the car in that direction is great. Hopefully I can help them to become a winning team soon.”