The McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team have assured rookie driver Stoffel Vandoorne that he is under no pressure to deliver top performances, whilst the team are struggling with reliability.
Vandoorne joined the Woking based squad as a full-time driver in 2017, having being under their wing since joining the McLaren young driver programme back in 2013, but the Belgian has had numerous technical issues to contend with so far this season, making his debut in the sport all the more difficult.
Speaking to Racer.com recently, McLaren Honda Racing Director Eric Boullier has made it clear that Vandoorne has their full support, adding that the team are not expecting miracles from him at this difficult time for the squad.
“It is [disruptive], but at the same time I would say he is in a position where he doesn’t have to show every race what he’s worth.
“We believe in him, we signed him for the long term. Obviously, we don’t want the situation to carry on for too long, but he’s delivering.
“He has no pressure to deliver race after race, let’s say, so we can’t keep going too long but he’s OK.
“He’s very well supported by McLaren; I think we have enough data from him as well to understand what he’s capable of.
“I’m happy for him, on the inverse I’m a bit sad for Oliver Turvey [in Bahrain] but I’m happy for Stoffel to have a proper day of testing where he can be part of this team and really work with the car development, and for himself to gain a lot of experience.”
So far, Vandoorne has not really had the opportunity to show his true potential during a race this season, in fact at the 2017 Bahrain Grand Prix, the Belgian did not even make it to the starting grid, after suffering PU issues following his warm up lap.
However, having stepped into the car in Bahrain during 2016, as a replacement for an injured Fernando Alonso, the Belgian easily held his own, out qualifying more experienced team-mate Jenson Button, as well as taking McLaren’s first point of the season during his first ever race.
The Woking based squad are therefore well aware that Vandoorne can deliver when given the chance, and Boullier confirmed that when his car has been working trouble-free, the Belgian has been close to Alonso in terms of performance as far as their data confirms.
“It’s funny because last year he stepped in [to race] in Bahrain actually the whole weekend, so if you look session by session he had a lot of issues with his car and he has never been in a proper position to be able to extract the best of his car.
“So we watch data lap-by-lap, so we can tell you that yes there are a few times in the first few races when all was working in his car. He was driving properly, and he was matching Fernando, which is good, or not far from Fernando, at least close enough to show us he is worth putting in Formula 1.
“But yes, we need a complete weekend with no issues and a good race.”
A successful final days running at the in-season test session in Bahrain following the recent grand prix, where the Belgian was able to go the whole day without problems and complete 81 laps of development, will have boosted Vandoorne’s confidence no end and hopefully McLaren Honda can enjoy similar reliability at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix, giving the Belgian his chance to shine.