Stoffel Vandoorne’s experience facing Fernando Alonso at McLaren puts him well placed to explain the “greatness” of the double world champion.
Alonso has descended the Dolomites after some off-season skiing in Italy, and Alonso’s 2023 preparations are well underway with Aston Martin.
The veteran Formula 1 maestro landed at the team’s base this week, with Alonso sharing some photos on Instagram captioned ‘countdown’ before Aston Martin followed up with a montage summarizing his first day.
Alonso has moved from Alpine after two seasons at the team formerly known as Renault – with whom the Spaniard won both his world championships 17 years ago.
The 41-year-old’s shock transfer sees him reunited with a former team-mate. Stoffel Vandoorne partnered Alonso for the final 40 races of his frustrating second McLaren stint – also finishing ninth and sixth in the constructors’ standings for two seasons.
When Alonso retired in 2018, Vandoorne also lost his seat. The Belgian has become Formula E champion, stood on the podium at the 24 Hours of Le Mans and has worked as a reserve and simulator driver for Mercedes ever since. For 2023 he will fill the same role at Aston Martin alongside Formula 2 champion Felipe Drugovich.
Speaking of his Aston Martin colleague, Vandoorne told Mirror Sport: “The only teammates I had in Formula 1 were Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso – both world champions, and Fernando a double champion.”
“It is always great when a young driver comes to work alongside a very experienced driver. You have to be open minded and see how they approach and build their race weekends. Fernando is one of the greatest to do that. I have a great relationship with him.”
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Although he retains close ties with Mercedes after a long period under the wing of the German team, Vandoorne had to look for a new employer not only in Formula 1.
Mercedes pulled the plug on their Formula E team for 2023, with Toto Wolff explaining that they have decided to put all available resources into F1.
Vandoorne will instead defend his Formula E title with the DS Penske team alongside another former Formula 1 driver and double FE champion, Jean Eric Vergne.
While the 30-year-old is not expected to return to the Formula 1 grid, he is excited to help Aston Martin battle for grand prix victories behind the scenes.
“It was a natural change. In recent years I had my role as reserve driver at Mercedes. I’ve loved going on a very different journey with Aston Martin,” said the former McLaren man.
“It is a team that is investing a lot of money in the future to try and become one of the leading teams. For me it’s great to be a part of that now and help develop the car in that direction. Hopefully I can help them become a winning team soon.”