Despite securing last year’s GP2 Series title in dominant fashion with a record seven wins, Vandoorne could not graduate straight to F1 as McLaren already had world champions Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button under contract for 2016.
Having overseen his progress as a member of Woking’s young driver development programme since 2013, Dennis has nothing but praise for the 24-year-old’s talent and work ethics.
“He has always been intelligent, but to that intelligence he has recently added a level of wisdom unusual in one so young,” Dennis told the official Formula One website.
“And he is as physically fit as any racing driver in any race series in the world, including Formula One.
“His journey to [F1] has been mapped out very carefully, as is always the case with McLaren Young Driver Programme members, and we expect him to be ready in 2017.”
With Fernando Alonso locked in a three-year deal at McLaren, Vandoorne could be groomed to succeed Jenson Button, whose 2016 option was taken up late last year. But Dennis would not get into the specifics of whether the Belgian ace would be able to be promoted to an F1 seat within the team.
“Fernando has repeatedly confirmed that he intends to complete the three years of his current contract. And that contract contains no options or performance clauses by the way: it is three years straight.
“As for Jenson, he and I will speak during the course of the year. But he is a world champion, and one of the very best drivers we have ever had. Any team would be delighted to have him on their driving strength. We most definitely are.”
In 2016, Vandoorne will dovetail his McLaren role with a full campaign in the Japan-based Super Formula category driving for Docomo Team Dandelion Racing and competing against the likes of former F1 drivers Kamui Kobayashi, Kazuki Nakajima and triple Le Mans 24 Hours winner André Lotterer.