Vandoorne: McLaren promotion feels ‘awesome’

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Stoffel Vandoorne has described his promotion to a full-time McLaren-Honda race seat as “awesome”, with the Belgian ace set to partner Fernando Alonso at Woking in 2017.

The team announced on Saturday at the Italian GP that Vandoorne will replace Jenson Button next year. The Briton will step down from Formula One, though McLaren will keep the 2009 world champion under contract for another two seasons as a reserve and ambassador.

After patiently waiting in the wings, Vandoorne, who won the 2015 GP2 Series title in dominant fashion and enjoyed a strong grand prix debut in Bahrain earlier this season, is delighted to be given a proper chance in F1

“I feel pretty awesome,” the 24-year-old said. “This is something I’ve been dreaming about since I was a kid, getting to Formula One is something very special, signing your first F1 contract… I don’t have words to describe it.

“I have been with McLaren-Honda for a while now and really pushing hard to get into F1. I am really looking forward to the challenge and I really want to thank [McLaren Group chairman] Ron [Dennis] for the belief and trust to put me in the car for next year. I am looking forward to a successful partnership.”

Vandoorne adds that he is not fazed by the prospect of launching his career in the top flight as Fernando Alonso’s team-mate.

“I feel very positive about being alongside Fernando and Jenson. They are both world champions and when you want to get to Formula One, you have to get up against the best. I am definitely looking forward to the challenge.”

The Belgian driver, who has been part of the McLaren Young Driver Programme since 2013, also welcomes having Button still involved in the team.

“Jenson is a great inspiration for any racing driver. He has been a very big part of this team. I am very happy to see him continue with the team. His experience will be incredibly valuable to us and I hope we will have a successful time together.”

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