Mark Webber believes Stoffel Vandoorne is benefiting from having a leader in Fernando Alonso as a team-mate in the McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team garage in 2017, even if the MCL32 is not competitive or reliable so far this season.
Vandoorne is competing in his first full season in Formula 1 after a one-off appearance replacing Alonso in the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix, but talking at Spa-Francorchamps during the recent FIA World Endurance Championship event, Webber believes the Belgian has got an old head on a young body, and will benefit hugely from having someone like Alonso as his team-mate.
“I like Stoffel a lot, he’s got his head screwed on,” said Webber. “He sees the big picture quite nicely for his age, he has a very good career in front of him.
“This is a good learning [process] for him in this car, with Fernando in the other garage. Fernando is running the team at the moment, he’s running McLaren.
“Fernando is colossal, mercurial. So for Stoffel, it’s good learning.”
Webber also believes that Jenson Button is not that serious about making a return to Formula 1 after the Briton was announced as Alonso’s replacement in McLaren for the Monaco Grand Prix as the Spaniard makes his rookie start in the Indianapolis 500 instead.
The Australian believes that the way Button rejected the chance to test the MCL32 in Bahrain before making his return to the sport proves that the Briton is not too interested in racing again in Formula 1.
“It’s a non-story, Jenson at Monaco,” said Webber. “He goes out, has fuel pressure problems in FP1, qualifies 17th, retires on lap 12 of the race. Whatever, who cares?
“Jenson didn’t do any testing in Bahrain, he doesn’t take it so seriously – ‘I want to stay in America and do my triathlon, I’m not bothered about the Bahrain test’ – which for me was a surprise.
“For Jenson the first session in Monaco will be wakey-wakey. I don’t think he’s very interested. I don’t think he would have been first on the phone [about replacing Alonso].”