RISING STAR: Belgian rookie Stoffel Vandoorne is likely to replace Jenson Button at McLaren-Honda in 2017. Image: AFP / Mohammed Al-Shaikh
Monte Carlo - McLaren boss Ron Dennis delivered a clear warning to rival Formula 1 teams on Thursday that rising Belgian star Stoffel Vandoorne is "not for sale".
Vandoorne, the Honda-powered team's reserve driver impressed as a late deputy for two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso at the Bahrain Grand Prix in early April 2016 when he finished 10th on debut.
Button to be replaced
He now looks set to land a race seat with the team in 2017, as a likely replacement for 2009 champion Briton Jenson Button, who is currently racing under a one-year contract with the team.
Alonso has a contract for 2017.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday (May 27), Dennis said: "Stoffel is an extremely talented, intelligent and hard-working young driver, with an enormous amount of potential, and who importantly knows how to win.
"As such, he's an integral part of McLaren-Honda's future and any other team that imagines they may be able to poach him away from us is very much mistaken.
Dennis said: "As regards our 2017 driver line-up, we aren't yet ready to commit or communicate, but you may rest assured that Stoffel is not for sale."
Vandoorne, 24, won the GP2 title in 2015 and has gained further experience in Japan's Super Formula 2016.
Button, 36, who has started 289 GPs, started his career with Williams and has been linked with a return to the British team next season.