Stoffel Vandoorne discusses Mercedes racing in Formula E

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It took a little over a week for Arrow McLaren SP’s latest rookie IndyCar test driver Nico Hulkenberg to decide that the longtime Formula 1 driver’s first day in an Indy car would most likely be his last. . Stoffel Vandoorne, the 29-year-old Belgian driver and the latest to land an IndyCar Driver’s Assessment Day with AMSP, says he has a lot more to think about after spending Monday driving Pato O’s No.5 Chevrolet ‘Ward at Sebring International. Raceway.

Vandoorne, the Mercedes Formula E driver who finished second in the championship in 2020, also has 41 F1 races to his name with a second place in this year’s World Endurance Championship and a podium in the overall standings of the 24 Hours of the Mans 2019.. And yet, in September, Vandoorne crossed the Atlantic and entered the IndyCar paddock at Laguna Seca to network with as many crew chiefs as possible in the hopes of learning about another series to add to his CV. Given his F1 career with McLaren from 2016 to 2018, he quickly met McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown and quickly accepted an offseason test.

The driver, who is still under contract with Mercedes in Formula E for 2022 before the team withdraws from the championship, said it was still far too early to speculate where he might drive in 2023, but someday in a IndyCar left him wanting more. .

“It was a great experience. I really had a really fun day in the car,” Vandoorne told IndyStar after finishing with the fastest third lap in a four-car test which included his Formula teammate. E Nyck de Vries (Meyer Shank Racing), Callum Ilott (Juncos Hollinger Racing) and Jack Aitken (Ed Carpenter Racing). “It’s definitely a beast of a car to drive, and it’s heavy on the steering. I struggled a lot with the steering wheel in the corners, but most of all, I was happy.

“I really had a positive feeling driving these cars, and I felt comfortable race after race and got even more so as the day wore on. We will see what the future holds. , but for sure I turn to the IndyCar. “

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In Nashville earlier this year, at a press conference announcing McLaren Racing’s intention to buy a controlling 75% stake in Arrow McLaren SP from Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson, Brown said AMSP had the intends to operate a third car full-time in 2023. Following these announcements, the team has since clarified that it is currently working on setting up a partial season program in 2022 to accelerate the expansion. , acquire additional crew and engineering personnel, and test potential pilots to fill this role in the future.

The first of these drivers, Hulkenberg, has raced parts of 10 seasons in F1 dating back to 2020 and is currently a reserve driver for Aston Martin F1 for the season which ends next weekend. The 34-year-old German driver took part in a private five-car IndyCar test in October with AMSP, finishing with the “best” slowest lap time of the day. Less than two weeks later, Hulkenberg tweeted that “for personal reasons”, he had decided not to pursue any kind of IndyCar chapter with the team.

While it does not offer the open calendar to simplify the management of a mid-season IndyCar roster, Vandoorne’s Formula E calendar would offer legitimate windows to make a feeling period possible. In addition to the season opener for St. Pete and the Indy 500 (both improbable debuts), the Formula E Mercedes driver is out for four weeks between Formula E races in Indonesia (June 4) and Canada (July 2), which could make the IndyCar race at Road America on June 12 a potential option.

While the ovals might not make the most sense for his debut, his schedule would allow him to race both in the Iowa doubles program at IndyCar, as well as on the WWT Raceway. The Music City Grand Prix (August 7), as well as races in Portland (September 4) and Laguna Seca (September 11) are also possible, with the Formula E season finale falling in mid-August.

“So far I have no plan after this so everything is wide open on my end,” he said. “In a way it gives me a lot of opportunities in a lot of different racing series. I could continue in Formula E or probably have endurance opportunities, as well as IndyCar opportunities. ‘be in a bit of a decision time frame in my career in terms of, which path do I want to take? “

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Vandoorne may have to wait and see how AMSP’s second season unfolds with O’Ward and teammate Felix Rosenqvist, after the tandem staged very different campaigns in terms of results in 2021. While the Mexican driver from 22-year-old achieved three poles, two wins and a third place in the title race, Rosenqvist’s rookie year with AMSP represented a step back after two seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing. The Swedish rider recorded just two top-10s and eight finishes outside the top-15.

With Vandoorne already well advanced in his racing career, which is set to turn 30 in March, he said on Monday he was not interested in a new challenge where he would not be set up to compete near the top from the start .

“I want to fight at the front lines from the start and for that you need a good team around you,” he said. “I think McLaren the last two years (in IndyCar) have been very promising. For me that’s the main deciding factor for my future – what competitive package I can compete in.”

“Besides, I don’t want to just come a year and do nothing after that. I would like to build a multi-year package.”

Email IndyStar Motorsport reporter Nathan Brown at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @By_NathanBrown.



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