Stoffel Vandoorne has reinforced McLaren's decision to put him in its 2017 F1 line-up by claiming his first win in Japan's Super Formula series at Okayama.
The Belgian, who will partner Fernando Alonso in next year's grand prix series, led from start to finish after jumping front row man Yuji Kunimoto at the start, resisting pressure from both the Japanese and former F1 pilot Narain Karthikeyan for the entire 110km race distance to take the top step of the podium for the first time. Polesitter, and another former F1 pilot, Kazuki Nakajima, had been relegated to the rear of the field for inadvertantly lining up in the wrong grid slot after the formation lap.
Vandoorne, who headed east on the back of a dominant 2015 GP2 Series campaign after finding there was no opening in F1, captured a podium on his debut in the distinctive single-seater series, but has had to work hard for a victory between reserve duties in the top flight.
The 24-year old, who occupies fifth spot in the Super Formula standings, gave McLaren its first F1 point of the season by finishing tenth in the Bahrain Grand Prix while standing in for the injured Alonso, and was confirmed alongside the Spaniard for next season during last weekend's Italian Grand Prix, in which it was revealed that Jenson Button - whom he partnered in Sakhir - would be moving to an ambassadorial role within the Woking set-up.
DoCoMo Team Dandelion driver Vandoorne will get a chance to make it two wins on the weekend when he lines up for race two on Sunday.