Stoffel Vandoorne, the 26-year-old Belgian racer who has been contracted to McLaren’s Formula 1 team since the start of the 2017 season, has lost his seat at the British team to make way for 18-year-old rising star Lando Norris.
After Vandoorne has come under increasing pressure to produce results in his under-performing car, the team has finally announced that they have decided not to offer him a contract renewal in favor of the young Brit.
Norris is currently second in the Formula 2 standings with the junior McLaren team. He has clocked some time in the Formula 1 car this season, driving in two practice sessions over the last two race weekends.
According to the Formula 1 website, Norris joined the McLaren Young Driver Program in 2017.
Norris’ addition to the team will mean an all-new lineup in 2019, as 24-year-old Spaniard Carlos Sainz has been announced as replacing double world champion Fernando Alonso following his retirement at the end of the 2018 season.
McLaren announced Norris’ contract on their website only an hour after sharing the news that Vandoorne would not be staying with the team.
The CEO for the team, Zak Brown, issued a statement regarding the departing Belgian.
“We’re immensely thankful for Stoffel’s dedication, hard work and commitment during his time at McLaren. 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.”
He continued, stating that the team had not been able to provide the driver with the “tools to show his true talent,” but that Vandoorne had always been an excellent team player despite his frustrations on the track.
Norris also participated in mid-season testing in the Formula 1 car during the summer break.
Brown explained the reason behind signing such a young driver to the senior team, citing his previous success in racing in the past few years.
“We believe Lando is an exciting talent, full of potential, who we’ve very deliberately kept within the McLaren fold for exactly that reason. 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,” he said in a statement on the McLaren website.
At this stage, it is unknown if Vandoorne has any other options within Formula 1, with seats on other teams quickly filling up.