Stoffel Vandoorne says he is buoyed by the prospect of having two-time world champion Fernando Alonso as his team-mate in 2017 as he prepares for his first full season of F1 racing with McLaren-Honda.
The dominant GP2 Series champion in 2015, the McLaren protégé will be promoted to a race drive next season after Jenson Button announced plans to take a sabbatical next year.
Putting him up alongside 32-time race winner Alonso, Vandoorne insists having such an accomplished benchmark will be the ideal motivation to beat him.
“I think it's something positive for me to race alongside Fernando,” he said. “Everyone obviously knows his qualities, he's a double world champion and a lot of people see him as one of the toughest drivers to beat. So I think it's positive for me to come in and be his team-mate.
“Obviously we'll try to beat each other, that's normal because we're racing drivers. But as well we have to make sure we push the team forward for next year. We're making big progress now and hopefully next year we can make another big step.”
POINTS: The F1 World Championship standings after the Japanese Grand Prix
Having spent the 2016 season racing in the Japanese-based Super Formula series and conducting simulator work for McLaren, Vandoorne admits securing an early deal is making him impatient for 2017.
“Things are moving on slowly. I'm having a lot of talks with the engineers, with the management, there are a lot of things that I'm thinking about and they're thinking about as well. It's kind of ongoing and I think when it will get a lot busier is probably just after the last race when the season has come to an end and all the focus goes to next year then.”
“Yeah kind of [itchy feet], but I think also it is a good opportunity for me to have everything prepared very well for next year. The decision came quite early and I've had a lot of questions for the team in the week after the decision and now every day there are bits I think about and speak to the management, speak to the engineers.
“It's good for me to spend time here at the weekends as well to make me feel comfortable. Whenever I have a question I can just go up and talk to them.”
With two races remaining, Vandoorne is classified sixth in the Super Formula standings having taken a first win at the Okayama circuit.
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