McLaren boss Zak Brown says he is helping Stoffel Vandoorne remain in Formula 1 in 2019, adding that the ousted Belgian could also remain a member of the McLaren family going forward.
It was announced on Monday that the 26-year-old driver will be replaced next season by McLaren junior Lando Norris, who therefore completes a line-up that will be headed by Carlos Sainz.
Speaking to members of the media earlier today, Brown offered a positive assessment of Vandoorne's future despite his eviction, insisting he would make for a worthy addition to any team with a free seat for 2019 - with the exception of McLaren apparently.
"I definitely think he’s a Formula 1 calibre driver, and if I was Toro Rosso - who appear to have two open seats - I’d put Stoffel in in a heartbeat," Brown said.
The McLaren boss was quick to recognize the predicament faced by Vandoorne since 2017, but he also justified why Norris was considered a better bet.
"I think we’ve had a very poor race car for two years. Someone like Fernando can adapt quicker, he’s got so much experience," acknowledged the American.
"Stoffel was very close to Fernando, a lot closer than some other teammates as Fernando commented. Stoffel is an outstanding race car driver.
"Ultimately we look to the future and feel Lando’s a future star. I think in a different environment, Stoffel may excel more, and with a better race car."
Responding to a question from Crash.net, Brown vowed to help Vandoorne remain in F1, or perhaps within the McLaren family, hinting perhaps at the Belgian's incorporation into the company's prospective IndyCar plans.
"Anything we can do to help Stoffel, we would help him in a heartbeat," Brown said.
"We consider him family, he’s been outstanding to work with, hopefully he lands in Formula 1, that’s where I think he deserves to be.
"But we have some other racing activities that you guys know we are reviewing, and I wouldn’t hesitate to keep Stoffel in the McLaren family if there was a seat available and he had a desire to race in it."