ART has announced that Stoffel Vandoorne and Takuya Izawa are the team's choice to spearhead their 2014 GP2 Series championship campaign, a selection that signals important new ties for the team with McLaren and Honda.
The 21-year-old Vandoorne impressed in 2013 when he finished as the runner-up in the World Series by Renault 3.5 championship to fellow McLaren young driver Kevin Magnussen. Magnussen has since been replaced Sergio Perez in McLaren's F1 line-up, while Vandoorne will also join the Grand Prix team in 2014 as a reserve driver alongside his GP2 duties with ART. (See separate story
"I'm very excited to have been selected to race for the ART GP2 team for 2014," said Vandoorne. "Having won the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 in 2012, and having finished second in the World Series by Renault 3.5 in 2013, I feel I'm making good progress towards my ultimate goal: F1.
"ART has won the GP2 series three times in the past – with Nico Rosberg in 2005, with Lewis Hamilton in 2006, and with Nico Hulkenberg in 2009 – and all three of those drivers have gone on to become F1 drivers," Vandoorne pointed out. "Two of them, Lewis and Nico, have gone on to win Formula 1 grands prix, and one of them, Lewis, has gone on to win a F1 world championship.
"GP2 is the prime feeder series for F1, and GP2 cars are powerful and fast," he added. "Obviously, I'm definitely not making any predictions, and I'm certainly not under-estimating the drivers I'll be racing in GP2 this year, many of whom are very good indeed, but as I say I'll be aiming to win with ART and I very much hope that that success will help me on my way to my ultimate goal [of driving in F1.]"
Vandoorne will be joined at ART by new team mate Takuya Izawa, who has been competing in championships in his native Japan such as the Super GT GT500 series and Formula Nippon, as well making a couple of WTCC appearances with the Honda team in 2013.
"I am feeling emotions, which I never felt before, this will be a big challenge for me," Izawa admitted on Thursday. "Staring this season, I am participating in the GP2 Series where the world's top drivers compete hard and where a number of F1 drivers have been generated.
"Of course, I feel pressure," he agreed. "However, I should be confident with what I learned during the six years I competed in the top category in Japan and I will take a new step forward toward global racing as a driver who inherited Honda's Challenging Spirit.
"I am grateful for Honda for giving me this opportunity and for all people who supported me to this date," he added.
Team principal Frédéric Vasseur hailed his 2014 driver line-up, and declared that he and the team were "very happy to have two talented drivers, both intelligent and determined."
"It's a bit of a homecoming in some respects and I am truly delighted to be working hand in hand with McLaren and Honda," Vasseur added. "This is a new beginning and our aim will be displayed as well as it was at our first start in GP2: by winning both titles."
Last year, ART finished in fifth place in the team championship with drivers James Calado and Daniel Abt, Calado himself ultimately claiming third place in the driver's standings.