McLaren hand Stoffel Vandoorne 2014 F1 reserve driver role and ART GP2 drive
Young Belgian finished second to Magnussen in 2013 FR3.5 series
By James Galloway. Last Updated: 04/02/14 9:18am
Stoffel Vandoorne: Continues his rise up the motorsport ladder
McLaren have named Belgium's Stoffel Vandoorne, who along with new race driver Kevin Magnussen is a protege of their Young Driver Programme, as the team's reserve driver for the 2014 season.
The 21-year-old finished runner-up to Magnussen in last year's Formula Renault 3.5 series and has impressed the Woking outfit's hierarchy sufficiently to be promoted to a reserve role for the new campaign.
In addition to his new F1 duties at grand prix weekends, Vandoorne will also move into the GP2 Series after McLaren secured a drive for him with ART - the same team for whom former McLaren protege Lewis Hamilton raced for when he won the feeder championship in 2006.
The Belgian's GP2 drive was announced at the same time as ART announced they had signed a "partnership agreement" with McLaren and Honda, the Woking outfit's returning 2015 engine supplier. Vandoorne will be partnered by experienced Japanese GT driver Takuya Izawa.
"I'm thrilled and honoured to have been selected by McLaren Mercedes to be the team's Formula 1 reserve driver for 2014," said Vandoorne. "Equally, I'm really excited to have been selected to race for the ART GP2 team for 2014.
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"I've been a member of the McLaren Young Driver Programme for almost a year now, and I've learned an enormous amount in that time. I visit the McLaren Technology Centre [MTC] at least once a week, sometimes more often than that, and I've done a lot of work in the MTC simulator to assist McLaren's Formula 1 engineers develop the new-for-2014 MP4-29 Formula 1 car.
"Equally, I've worked very hard on my physical and mental fitness over the past year, and the McLaren Young Driver Programme has been absolutely fantastic in that respect. The guys at Woking really know how to prepare a driver for Formula 1, and I've really enjoyed working with them. I still do."
McLaren Sporting Director Sam Michael believes Vandoorne has already shown himself to be hugely talented during his first season on the team's books.
"Stoffel is a truly excellent young driver - fast, combative, consistent, intelligent and ambitious - and he's already made an excellent impression on all at McLaren during the year he's spent as a member of the McLaren Young Driver Programme," Michael said.
"His technical input is first-class, he's excellent in our simulator, and he isn't afraid of hard work. He has a collaborative and engaging manner, and he's therefore as popular at McLaren as he is helpful."
Vandoorne has yet to drive an F1 car and with the bespoke Young Driver Test scrapped for 2014 is therefore likely to make any 2014 debut in the four, two-day in-season tests that will follow GP weekends.
McLaren launch their 2014 car, the MP4-29, via an online presentation at noon on Friday.
The Sky Sports F1 Online team will be providing live commentary of all three winter tests, starting in Jerez on Tuesday January 28, with live updates from trackside also on Sky Sports News.