Formula 1

Stoffel Vandoorne expects North American leg to be a learning experience

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Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd

Stoffel Vandoorne has said he is looking to continue his promising run of form for the McLaren Honda Formula One Team, but faces the extra challenge of never having raced at the Circuit of the Americas, or the revamped Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez – the site of next weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.

However, the young Belgian is unfazed about the issue, instead focussing on the positives of the experience.

“I’m really looking forward to this double-header in the USA and Mexico and discovering two new tracks that I’ve never experienced before.” said Vandoorne.

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about COTA and it’s a circuit a lot of drivers love racing on as it has a bit of everything. Austin is a really cool place to visit too – I’ve been going there with the team for a couple of years now in my former role as reserve driver – and it’s always nice to make the most of our downtown location and sample the local restaurants.”

Thanks to modern technology allowing for endless and highly detailed preparation, the 25-year-old from Kortrijk says that facing a new track is not as difficult anymore, due to simulators allowing the drivers to get an adequate feel for the track before the weekend.

“Going to a new track doesn’t make me any more nervous than going to a circuit I’ve raced on before – the opposite, actually.”

“We prepare for each Grand Prix with our engineers in the same way for every race weekend, and although I’ve never driven on this track in the real world, I’ve done many laps in the virtual world in our simulator, so I’m keen to get going with set-up work straight away on Friday and get the car dialled-in to the track as soon as possible.”

Having recorded a career best finish of seventh in Singapore and Malaysia, Vandoorne and McLaren endured a more trying weekend at outgoing engine supplier Honda’s home event at Suzuka, the Belgian coming home in a distant 14th place, three places adrift of team-mate Fernando Alonso.

Despite the blip, Vandoorne is confident of an upturn in performance in the United States, suggesting that car setup will be the crucial factor, as opposed to power, even though Austin boasts a one kilometre back straight.

“After a couple of positive races for me, Japan was trickier for us and we struggled to make up any ground on Sunday after an unfortunate start. Austin should be a bit better for us in terms of power sensitivity, although there’s a wide range of corners which each give us a different challenge, so the key will be to balance the set-up all the way around the lap.

“There should be more overtaking opportunities there too and I’m hopeful we can have a more positive weekend.”

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