McLaren chief Ron Dennis says Stoffel Vandoorne will be 'race ready' for 2017 but has given no guarantees he'll land an F1 drive next season.
The McLaren reserve driver claimed the GP2 Series title last year and rules dictate the champion cannot return to the championship. After the Woking-based team confirmed Jenson Button would return for 2016 alongside Fernando Alonso, the Belgian youngster was left without any F1 options for this year and as a result is gearing up for a maiden campaign in the Japanese Super Formula series with Honda-powered Docomo Team Dandelion Racing.
Having driven for McLaren at the Pirelli wet tyre test at Paul Ricard last month while also keeping his reserve driver role, Vandoorne remains in the forefront of the team's plans but has refused to confirm whether the 23-year-old will step up to F1 next year as he's delighted with his current line-up.
“Fernando has repeatedly confirmed that he intends to complete the three years of his current contract,” Dennis said on F1.com. “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.
“Super Formula cars are fast and grippy, and Stoffel will be competing against ex-Formula One drivers such as Kamui Kobayashi, Kazuki Nakajima, Narain Karthikeyan and Andre Lotterer. He will fare well. His journey to Formula One 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.”