The 24-year-old will replace Jenson Button for his first full campaign. Vandoorne already made his F1 debut, deputising for an injured Alonso in Bahrain last April. He went on to score McLaren’s first point of the season with 10th place in the race.
“That was quite an achievement from Stoffel to score points on his F1 debut,” Ickx told Belgian newspaper Le Soir. “It was a last-minute thing and he really stepped up to the plate. McLaren and Honda have been convinced, and so have we!
“He will impress in 2017. Now, he must start the year with one goal in mind: beating and outpacing Alonso. F1 is a jungle and the only law is to have the edge over your team-mate.”
Ickx claimed eight grand prix in 116 starts from 1966 to 1979. The 71-year-old also won the iconic Le Mans 24 Hours six times, as well as the gruelling Dakar Rally, the famous Bathurst 1000 in Australia, and the Can-Am series.
Vandoorne has chosen to have #2 as his permanent racing number, the same as Lewis Hamilton during his stunning 2007 rookie season at McLaren. Alonso was already there, having joined the British as a double world champion from Renault. Not sure the Spaniard has kept fond memories of that year…