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Vandoorne leaving F1 team McLaren at season's end

2018-09-03 14:13
a

Image: AFP / John Thys

Belgian driver Stoffel Vandoorne will leave Formula 1 team McLaren at the end of the season, the F1 team said on Monday.

The 26-year-old Vandoorne has raced in 34 Grands Prix since his debut in 2016, but he has struggled this season and is 16th in the standings with just eight points.

His departure means McLaren will have two new drivers for the 2019 campaign with Fernando Alonso set to retire from F1 at the end of the year.

2019 plans unknown

Vandoorne said: "I'm very grateful to McLaren for investing their faith in me over the past five years.

"While we haven't achieved the success we'd all hoped for, I've really enjoyed the past two seasons racing for McLaren and I have a great relationship with everyone in the team.

"I intend to give it my all for the remaining seven races of this season, and will announce my plans for next season in due course."

Vandoorne's exit could lead to McLaren's reserve driver Lando Norris taking his place next year.

England's Norris, 18, has taken part in practice at the last two races in Belgium and Italy for McLaren.

Spaniard Carlos Sainz already announced as one of the two McLaren drivers for next year, with Sergio Perez also said to be in contention for the second seat.

Vandoorne replaced Jenson Button at McLaren for the 2017 campaign.

But despite a steady opening season in Formula One, he has struggled recently, being beaten in qualifying by Alonso at every round this term.

Vandoorne was last on the grid for Sunday's Italian Grand Prix before he took the chequered flag in 12th.

"It is clear we haven't provided Stoffel with the tools to show his true talent, but throughout our relationship, he's proved to be a fantastic team player," McLaren CEO Zak Brown said.

"For now, we look to the future and to the remaining grands prix in 2018, where I know both Stoffel and Fernando will be pushing hard to fight for as many points as possible.

"We wish Stoffel all the best in whatever direction he chooses to take next in his career. We will announce our full driver line-up for 2019 in due course."

Vandoorne, who has scored just eight points this season, could be handed a Formula One lifeline by Toro Rosso or Sauber.

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