Stoffel Vandoorne says his full-time F1 break must happen in 2017
"2017 I have to be on the grid," declares McLaren reserve
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 16/09/16 11:21am
McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne has admitted 2017 must to be the year he makes the full-time step up to the Formula 1 grid.
The highly-rated 24-year-old is up against Jenson Button to land the seat alongside Fernando Alonso for next season.
Although considered a rising young star of the sport, Vandoorne is already seven years older than Max Verstappen was when the Dutchman became F1's youngest-ever driver last year. And, of the current grid, only Jolyon Palmer made his full-time debut in the sport after his 24th birthday.
Having enjoyed more success than most on the road to F1 - finishing in the top two of both GP2 and Formula Renault 3.5 - and then scoring a point on his grand prix debut as stand-in for Alonso in Bahrain, Vandoorne believes he has done everything he can to show McLaren he is ready for promotion.
"In some way it has it be [next year]," he told Sky Sports News HQ at the Silverstone test. "I've done all the preparation I could do - GP2, World Series, and now Super Formula. I've even done my first Grand Prix now.
"So, yes, 2017 I have to be on the grid."
McLaren's management have indicated they will not start discussing their 2017 driver plans until mid-September at the earliest, meaning Vandoorne and Button have several more months to wait before they learn their who will be given the nod.
Asked how much contact he has with racing director Eric Boullier and chairman Ron Dennis, Vandoorne replied: "It's quite normal I talk a lot to them. I want to be in Formula 1 next year, it's the place where I want to be. I've been pushing for this for a long time.
He added: "I feel very positive about next year, I feel confident I will be in a car so hopefully a decision comes sooner rather than later."
Should McLaren decide to retain Button and keep Vandoorne on hold for another year, then it has been speculated that the Woking team will look to keep the Belgian on their books and loan him out to another team, with Renault one potential suitor.