After the announcement last week that current McLaren Formula 1 driver, Stoffel Vandoorne, was to swap the world of F1 for the all-electric circus of Formula E, many motorsport fans were left in shock. However, the decision made to embrace electric has lead to him being part of one of the strongest team-mate pairings the sport has seen, with current DTM Champion Gary Paffett concluding the HWA Formula E Team line-up.
With his fresh commitment to Formula E, in addition to his existing racing contract with McLaren, Vandoorne only has two days of testing available to him in Valencia. A fact made even more unfortunate when his car suffered battery issues on the first day of testing, resulting in only a handful of laps being set all day.
“No, I don’t know what’s going on,” Vandoorne started when asked about his reliability woes on Tuesday evening to katyfairman.com. “It’s not been an easy day for us. I think it was always going to be a bit difficult for us. The whole team is new to this series, myself and Gary [Paffett] as well. We are all new. We knew that we would run through a few issues and I think it’s a shame not to be out there and be running but you have got to give us and HWA a little time. All the people working here are extremely competitive and extremely competent and I’m sure in the future, once we get up and running, everything will go well.”
Despite lack of testing at the official pre-season test, Vandoorne had been able to make use of the two days of testing before the test began.
“I did two days of testing before this so at least I got a reasonable feel of how this car feels already and still a work to be done and a lot of work ahead of us. At the moment I am in a bit of a crossover let’s say, with Formula 1 and Formula E, going from one to the other – which is something I am not complaining about! I am really looking forward to it. It’s a massive challenge but very excited to go racing.”
With a previous history in championships such as Super Formula and Formula 2, the latter seeing Vandoorne crowned champion in 2015, he has a highly impressive single-seater resume to his name for just a 26-year-old.
“Obviously both the F1 car and FE car are extremely different and far apart in terms of how you drive the cars. Both are very challenging in their own way. I think Formula E is all about being efficient and making the car work, let’s say. There is a lot of software you can develop on these cars and I think as a driver as well you can influence and make quite a big difference in terms of how you can drive the cars, especially when you get to the street circuits and there are the walls very close. The racing is something I’m very much looking forward too.
“I love street circuits. Here in Valencia, the testing is good to see and to get a feel of where we are compared to some of the others but in the end, this circuit is very smooth and there are a lot of run off areas. Whilst on a street circuit, it’s completely different. It’s something I’ll have to adapt too.”
As for Formula E, Vandoorne stated it is a championship he has always kept an eye on over the four previous seasons.
“I’ve always kept an eye on Formula E since the series started because a lot of the drivers that are in here, I have actually competed against in previous series. So coming here to Formula E is quite nice so I can see some familiar faces, even in terms of mechanics that I used to work with so it’s nice to see those people back as well as drivers I used to race against.”
As for the challenges that both he and the team will face for the 2018/19 season, Vandoorne believes that expectation management is the key.
“It’s hard to tell what my goals will be next year. To be competitive, which is normal but I think we need a little bit of expectation management from our side. Like I said, the team is completely new to the series. Myself and Gary are completely new as well. We have a lot of experience, the quality in this team is extremely high so I’m sure when we get up and running we will get there in the end.”