Vandoorne unharmed by McLaren woes

Ross Gibson

Stoffel Vandoorne insists he has emerged from a tough first season in Formula One unscathed and was happy to match up to team-mate Fernando Alonso.

Having enjoyed a taste of the action in Bahrain the previous year, the Belgian was excited to be handed a drive with McLaren in 2017.

However, with engine problems dogging the team all season, he has taken only 13 points and sits down in 16th place in the Formula One standings with just the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to go.

Team-mate Alonso has not fared much better and is one place and two points better off, and it is no surprise that they have switched to Renault power units for the 2018 campaign.

Things began badly this year and, after a 13th place in Melbourne, the Honda Power unit led to three retirements in the next five races while the 25-year-old did not even make it to the grid in Bahrain.

Vandoorne did manage to finish six consecutive races between the Canadian Grand Prix and his home race in Spa before another retirement in Monza, but was never really competitive.

With the way things have developed and the frustrations felt by both driver and the team, it would be easy for Vandoorne to cut a disconsolate figure and spend his days moaning.

“With all the issues we had throughout this season I was never ‘traumatised’, said in an interview with “But instead always wanted to fight the odds to get the best possible result and learn with every lap that I did in the car – even if sometimes my mileage was cut short by circumstance.”

It was recently put to the former Formula Renault 2.0 champion that he has used Alonso as a mentor this term – something he fiercely denies – but there is no question that having a two-time world champion in the same team can only help.

The duo will once again be partners for McLaren in 2018 but will hope for much more reliability and speed from their Renault engines.

Whether they can move closer to the podium only time will tell but even getting among the points on a regular basis will be step in the right direction for the Woking-based marque.

With Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull likely to be the main contenders once again, McLaren will be fighting it out with the likes of Force India, Williams and Toro Rosso, and, on a personal note, Vandoorne will hope to improve on his best 2017 displays – seventh place in both Malaysia and Singapore.

When asked to name one positive that has come out of a woeful season, the youngster felt that it was his ability to match the Spaniard and have him by his side that shone through.

“That I fared very well against Fernando,” he replied. “Yes, the race results were not as expected, but having a super strong teammate is a well-known value in the paddock.”