With the news that Stoffel Vandoorne has stepped up to the Mclaren race seat this weekend after Fernando Alonso was not cleared to race, many are predicting a strong debut for Vandoorne.
After a last minute overnight flight to Bahrain from Japan, Stoffel Vandoorne stepped into the car for P1 in Bahrain today, finishing a respectable 18th. A couple drivers on the grid who know Vandoorne well have weighed in on their thoughts ahead of his debut.
“I was on pole for the GP2 race here in 2014, but he won it easily,” says Jolyon Palmer. “He got ahead at the start and blew me away.
“Stoffel is without question the best driver I have raced against, and I really hope that we can be in a position to go wheel-to-wheel again this weekend.”
As reigning GP2 champion, Vandoorne will be wanting to prove his pace at the top level of motorsport, however teammate Jenson Button is confident that he will be up to speed quickly: “He’ll be all right, there’ll be a couple of things which are tricky but they will run through those on Friday and Saturday. The good thing for him is that there is no real pressure on him this weekend.
“He will be a very busy boy this weekend,” Button continued, “We have an awful lot of work to get through, but he knows this track really well and won here in 2014 and again last year.
“He’s worked with this team a lot and he has tested quite a bit so he understands the car, he understands the team and the way of working. He hasn’t driven this car yet, so hopefully he can learn quickly and we can trust in his feedback. It’s very important that we have both cars running to use the information for qualifying and the race.”
Alonso admitted that he will be on hand all weekend to help Vandoorne as much as possible.
“The team told me, ‘You will fly back home,’ and I said ‘No way,’” Alonso revealed in the Thursday press conference. “I want to hear the cars, I want to help Stoffel, I want to see the new updates in the car, how they work, so they are completely fine on that.”