Stoffel Vandoorne hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning to Formula 1 through his new Mercedes links as he begins a simulator role in 2019.

The Belgian driver was axed after two full seasons with McLaren, replaced by Lando Norris who steps up alongside Carlos Sainz Jr who joins from Renault next season, leaving Vandoorne facing an early F1 exit.

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Vandoorne has been picked up by Mercedes to fill a simulator role, while also racing for the Mercedes-supported HWA Racelab Formula E squad this season, and is determined to show the German manufacturer his full capabilities to move into a position for a potential F1 return.

“It’s definitely good to keep involved in the world because you never know what happens in the future,” Vandoorne told Formula1.com. “I think to be involved with Mercedes and to perform the work for them, it’s good that they will know exactly what I’m capable of doing. And we don’t know what the driver market is going to do in the future.

“It was a bit crazy this season and who knows what it will be next season. It’s hard to tell. So it’s good to be involved and to be prepared for anything that comes up.”

Last week McLaren chief Zak Brown conceded regrets over Vandoorne’s F1 career, having been a long-term junior at the team only to be dropped after two full campaigns, which has led to changes within the Woking-based team.

“Someone like Stoffel is an extremely good race car driver, and for whatever reason it didn’t work out,” Brown said. “We take some responsibility for that and want to understand why this driver had such a great pedigree but it didn’t work out, and we don’t want to replicate that where we may have got that wrong or contributed to that lack of success.

“One of the things that we recognised is I think we need some additional racers in the McLaren family.”

Mercedes has bolstered its simulator driver options with Vandoorne as George Russell is set for his F1 debut with Williams in 2019.

Vandoorne is expected to share the bulk of the simulator driver work with fellow Mercedes-affiliated drivers including Esteban Ocon who will acts as reserve driver to the works team after losing his own race seat at Racing Point F1.

Ferrari is also likely to bolster its simulator driver ranks this winter following the double departure of Daniil Kvyat, returning to Toro Rosso, and Antonio Giovinazzi who has secured a full-time race seat at Sauber in 2019.

 

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