Newly appointed Executive Director of McLaren Technologies, Zak Brown, believes Stoffel Vandoorne will eventually become one of the greats of the sport.
Despite facing a huge challenge this year when he makes his debut as a full-time F1 driver, Brown feels that the Belgian has what it takes to get through it and come out on top.
Speaking in an interview with the official formula one website recently, the American revealed his thoughts on the McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team rookie.
“Stoffel faces a serious test, but guess what; I think he’ll pass it with flying colours.
“Our personal trainers tell me he’s probably the fittest driver we’ve ever had, and he’s incredibly focused and determined. He’s fiercely intelligent too – you never have to tell him anything twice.”
Vandoorne got his first taste of F1 proper when he stood in for Fernando Alonso at the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix last year, after stewards deemed the Spaniard unfit to race, following a horrific accident at the previous round in Australia.
Vandoorne was unfazed by the challenge thrust upon him, even managing to score McLaren’s first point of the season, with a stunning drive to take tenth place, a performance Brown applauds.
“His Grand Prix debut in Bahrain last year was sensational – he out-qualified and out-raced Jenson [Button] despite having minimal time to prepare for the weekend.
“In fact he only arrived in Bahrain on the Friday morning, straight off a long two-flight journey from Japan via Dubai.”
The Belgian already has proven ability from the lower formulas, having finished runner-up to Kevin Magnussen on his debut in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series back in 2013, before going on to win the GP2 Series in dominant fashion in 2015, having finished second in his maiden season the year before.
Despite having one of the best drivers in the world as a team-mate in Alonso, Brown believes it will not stall Vandoorne’s dream of becoming a F1 champion, in fact he will most likely thrive on the competition.
“I think Stoffel will surprise a few people, he’s the real deal.”
A stint in the Japanese Super Formula Series, whilst completing his duties as a McLaren reserve driver in 2016, has kept Vandoorne fresh and motivated for his step up to F1 this year.
If the Woking based squad can show the same progression of the last two years and produce a solid challenger for their drivers, there is no reason why the Belgian cannot be a serious podium contender in 2017.