Stoffel Vandoorne could remain part of the McLaren family despite being dropped from its Formula 1 line-up for the 2019 season, according to team CEO Zak Brown.

Vandoorne rose through the ranks at McLaren as a young driver before spending two full seasons with the team, but has not recorded a finish any higher than seventh in F1, and has struggled to match teammate Fernando Alonso during their time together.

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McLaren announced on Monday that Vandoorne would be replaced by 18-year-old Lando Norris next year, partnering the Briton with the previously-announced Carlos Sainz Jr. as part of an all-new line-up for the team for 2019.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday at the McLaren Technology Centre, Brown was full of praise for Vandoorne, and said he would snap the Belgian up if he ran a team with a free seat for 2019. 

“I definitely think he’s a Formula 1 calibre driver, and if I was Toro Rosso - who appear to have two open seats - I’d put Stoffel in in a heartbeat,” Brown said.

“I think we’ve had a very poor race car for two years. Someone like Fernando can adapt quicker, he’s got so much experience. Stoffel was very close to Fernando, a lot closer than some other teammates as Fernando commented. Stoffel is an outstanding race car driver.

“Ultimately we look to the future and feel Lando’s a future star. I think in a different environment, Stoffel may excel more, and with a better race car.”

Asked by if he would help Vandoorne to find an F1 seat for 2019, Brown confirmed he had already made some calls, and said that the 2015 GP2 champion could in fact remain part of McLaren’s family if he cannot find a drive elsewhere, with the company reviewing possible programmes in IndyCar and sports car racing for the future.

“Anything we can do to help Stoffel, we would help him in a heartbeat,” Brown said.

“We consider him family, he’s been outstanding to work with, hopefully he lands in Formula 1, that’s where I think he deserves to be.

“But we have some other racing activities that you guys know we are reviewing, and I wouldn’t hesitate to keep Stoffel in the McLaren family if there was a seat available and he had a desire to race in it."

McLaren is yet to announce whether it will enter the Verizon IndyCar Series for 2019, but a decision is expected to be made in the coming weeks, while the marque remains part of discussions regarding the future top-class regulations for the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Formula 1 - Circuit Of The Americas

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