McLaren have announced their driver line-up for 2019, one that will see British younster Lando Norris team up with the previously announced Spaniard, Carlos Sainz. Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne will leave the team, making for a fully new driver line-up for McLaren next season.
Vandoorne, who joined McLaren's young driver programme 5 years ago and progressed steadily to full-time racing driver after an impressive GP2 championship victory, will leave the team, having failed to enjoy the success both he and the team had hoped for.
“We’re immensely thankful for Stoffel’s dedication, hard work and commitment during his time at McLaren", commended CEO Zak Brown.
"He’s a talented racing driver with an incredible list of accolades in his junior career. We’re proud to have played a part in his break into Formula 1, from his role as Test Driver to his fantastic points-scoring debut in Bahrain in 2016.
“It’s clear we haven’t provided Stoffel with the tools to show his true talent, but throughout our relationship he’s proved to be a fantastic team player. His work ethic is impressive, he has a great reputation within the team and we’ve really enjoyed working with him. He will always be a part of the McLaren family of grand prix drivers.
“For now, we look to the future and to the remaining grands prix in 2018, where I know both Stoffel and Fernando will be pushing hard to fight for as many points as possible before we close the curtain on this season.
“We wish Stoffel all the best in whatever direction he chooses to take next in his career, and we’ll be supporting him all the way. We will announce our full driver line-up for the 2019 season in due course.”
Lando, 18, from Somerset, UK, is McLaren Test and Reserve Driver and is contending the 2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship. He currently sits second in the championship, having won on his Formula 2 debut from pole position, with four races from two events remaining.
Lando will partner Spaniard Carlos Sainz, 23, at McLaren in 2019, as part of a multi-year agreement with the team. He has been part of the McLaren Young Driver Programme since early 2017, when he officially joined the team as Test and Simulator Driver. Since then, Lando has regularly conducted race simulation work for the team and also participated in Formula 1 testing – in Abu Dhabi in 2017, and Spain and Hungary in 2018. Most recently, he has driven in the first free practice sessions in both Belgium and Italy.
In his early career prior to joining McLaren, Lando rose rapidly through the ranks in junior racing categories, winning the Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup, Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup and the Toyota Racing Series Championship all in 2016, in addition to five karting championships in the four previous years. Last year, he contested the European Formula 3 Championship, which he won at the first attempt.
“We believe Lando is an exciting talent, full of potential, who we’ve very deliberately kept within the McLaren fold for exactly that reason", commented Zak Brown. Indeed, if McLaren had not opted to sign him as a racing driver, Norris would have been free to go wherever he liked, thanks to a reported clause in his contract.
“We already know he’s fast, he learns quickly, and has a mature head on his young shoulders. We see much potential for our future together. The investment we have made in his budding career with simulator development and seat-time in the car has been well-deserved, as he has continued to prove his abilities both behind the wheel and in his work with the engineering team.
“In Lando and Carlos we have an impressive duo who, despite their relative youth, hold valuable experience in Formula 1 and with McLaren, and represent the next generation of McLaren drivers to lead the team forward. While our short-term focus is fixed on securing the best possible result for the remainder of the 2018 season, we’re also massively motivated by the opportunities that lie ahead.”
The announcement means that McLaren's all new driver line-up will be a whole lot younger that its current one, with only Sainz bringing 4 years of F1 experience to the team.