Stoffel Vandoorne says going up against Fernando Alonso as team-mate at McLaren-Honda in no way fazes him as reaching F1 will always put him up against 'the best' in the sport regardless.
The Belgian will make a full-time move into F1 next season with McLaren as replacement for Jenson Button, who revealed over the Italian Grand Prix weekend that he will be taking a sabbatical from the sport in 2017.
Regarded as one of the sport's brightest young prospects, Vandoorne arrives in F1 with a substantial weight of expectation set upon him having dominated the 2015 GP2 Series under the guidance of McLaren's illustrious junior development programme.
ITALIAN GRAND PRIX - Race results
However, while the youngster acknowledges he has 'big shoes to fill', he is unflustered by the prospect of making his debut alongside two-time world champion Alonso and feels prepared to take on the challenge.
“It's big shoes to fill. Stepping into Jenson's seat is not easy as a young driver but I am totally up for a challenge. I have been in a reserve position this year and I have been following them on track, I have learnt a lot about how they push a team forward, how they help the team with development and having all three of us pushing the team forward we could be very successful.
“They are both world champions and when you want to get to F1 you have to go up against the best. I am looking forward to the challenge. I have raced in various series before F1 and I have managed to win championships so I am looking forward to being on the grid in Melbourne.”
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It's a view shared by Button himself, who says Vandoorne has enjoyed the best possible preparation by learning alongside two world champions in his reserve role.
“If you look at what Stoffel has achieved in the lower formulas, he is a standout driver coming through. He has also been so well educated in the world of F1 being the third driver here and learning from two world champions, it is the perfect position to be in. He is in a goof position to do well and he is determined.”
As for Alonso, he laughed off comparisons of racing alongside another one-time rookie at McLaren, simply responding…
“It's OK, he's not British.”
Vandoorne has already made his F1 debut – at this year's Bahrain Grand Prix – as a stand-in for the injured Alonso. He finished 10th to score a point.
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