Although not ruling it out completely, the new Formula E champ Stoffel Vandoorne cannot see a scenario where he returns to Formula 1.
The Belgian racer spent his career as a Formula 1 driver at McLaren, making his debut at the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix before contesting the 2017 and 2018 campaigns with the Woking outfit.
Vandoorne would exit the series at the end of 2018 and has not made another appearance since. He went on to help Mercedes claim the 2020-21 and 2021-22 Teams’ Championship in Formula E, while crowning himself Formula E World Champion for the first time in the 2021-22 campaign.
Vandoorne remains a reserve driver for both the Mercedes and McLaren F1 teams, and with Mercedes now handing over their Formula E outfit to McLaren, could Vandoorne look to work his way back onto the Formula 1 grid?
In his mind though, the Formula 1 chapter of his career is closed, with Formula E being the focus.
“I drove in Formula 1 for two years, in 2017 and 2018. I also don’t feel like I’ll ever end up in Formula 1 again,” said Vandoorne, as quoted by GPFans. “But never say never. It’s a crazy world and anything is possible.
“It’s not that I feel like I really need to get back to Formula 1. I got a great opportunity to drive for Mercedes [in Formula E].
“Of course, that collaboration is now coming to an end, but I have been able to put myself on the map as a winning driver and now a world champion in Formula E. That is where I see my future and that is where I want to focus.”
Vandoorne admits that Mercedes’ withdrawal from the series is a shame, as he wanted their collaboration to remain intact for the long term.
“Of course I think it’s a pity,” he affirmed. “I would have preferred to continue with Mercedes in this championship.
“When I joined the team, I had in mind that it would be a long collaboration. But everything ends once and we have to keep going.
“Luckily, everyone knew about the decision last year, so it’s not like it came as a surprise. They have given everyone the opportunity to work out their plans for the future.”
As for whether Vandoorne would continue with the team as it becomes McLaren, he confirmed that “I won’t be driving for them next year”, and while he did not reveal his next destination, he is “confident that it will succeed”.
Kevin Magnussen shows that Stoffel Vandoorne is wise to “never say never”.
At this stage, it is unlikely that Vandoorne will return to Formula 1. Having been out of the series for four seasons now, his roles with McLaren and Mercedes have not resulted in any qualifying or race appearances, Mercedes picking George Russell as Lewis Hamilton’s stand-in back at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix.
Vandoorne is also too experienced to take up any of the rookie driver FP1 outings which each team must offer up twice a season as of 2022.
That being said, there was another driver, Magnussen, who before the 2022 season was very much checked out of Formula 1, only for Haas to bring him back in once they dropped Nikita Mazepin following pre-season testing.
So, there remains a chance, albeit slight, that the cards could fall into place perfectly for Vandoorne to return to Formula 1.