Ahead of his first season in Formula 1, Stoffel Vandoorne insists his goal is not to beat Fernando Alonso but rather work with the Spaniard to get McLaren back to the front.
This season will be Vandoorne’s first in Formula 1 and the Belgian racer is taking on the formidable target of double World Champion Alonso.
The 24-year-old, though, has already shown himself to be a more than capable driver, winning the GP2 series in 2015 with 16 podiums from 21 races.
And while the main target for most drivers is to beat their team-mate, Vandoorne acknowledges that there is a bigger goal in mind for McLaren.
“I get on very well with Fernando,” he said in an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com.
“Of course I have been able to work with him for the past two years, and see how he operates in the team and how he pushes the team forward. I know very much what he is like.
“He is a very competitive driver and everybody knows his capabilities and still thinks he is one of the best around. So I will definitely have a very good benchmark next to me.
“But for me it would be wrong to only focus on Fernando. I think our main target is to get McLaren-Honda back to the front, which we will be focusing on.
“Then for me I just have to make sure that I make the most out of every situation, don’t make any silly mistakes, and make sure I do everything right.
“When I do that, I usually manage to have some good results as well, so that for me will be the main focus.”
But while McLaren have already spoken of a fourth place in 2017 being a disappointing result, Vandoorne concedes that it is not easy to make any predictions, or set out expectations, in light of a new aerodynamic regulations and wider tyres.
“I haven’t set any real expectations so far,” he added. “It is so difficult for me to know where we will be in terms of performance, and I think for everybody it is a little bit the same – they don’t know exactly where we will be.
“Of course we expect the top teams to fight for the top positions and it will always be like that. But we don’t know in which order yet.
“For me, I am just focusing on what I have always done – making sure I don’t make any mistakes, making sure I am up to date with all the processes and procedures that we have to go to.
“For me, for the most important thing is that I come to Barcelona testing and we can start focusing on performance and not having to go through all the driver bits that I should learn.”