Outgoing McLaren Driver Stoffel Vandoorne has confirmed a switch from Formula 1 to Formula E for the 2018/19 season with the Mercedes-affiliated HWA team.
The announcement comes as the four day pre-season test for season five of Formula E gets underway on Tuesday 16th of October. It is understood that Vandoorne will test for the Tuesday and Wednesday before leaving to travel to Austin for the US Grand Prix this weekend.
“I am honoured that HWA have signed me for their Formula E programme, HWA are such a great team with a long and successful history in motorsport. All the people I’ve met so far are really passionate about racing,” said Vandoorne in a press release.
“Also, it’s great to work alongside such an experienced driver as Gary Paffett. I am pretty sure that we will benefit from each other during the season. Although we are all newbies to the series, I have no doubt that we will have a steep learning curve. However, it won’t be easy. My objective is therefore to become competitive in the series as soon as possible and to make a good impression.”
Vandoorne, the 2015 GP2 champion and former McLaren young driver, impressed on his debut in Formula 1 when he scored the team’s first point of the season while filling in for the injured Fernando Alonso at the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix.
Many tipped him as a driver who would go on to do great things in the series, and in 2017 he was given a full season’s drive with the team following the retirement of Jenson Button. However with an underperforming car, and a double world champion for comparison as a team mate, Vandoorne was unable to really let his talent shine though.
Up until the Japanese Grand Prix in 2018 Vandoorne has only scored on six occasions in his McLaren since taking on a full-time seat at the team. And his last race in the points came at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix back in April of this year.
It was this worrying lack of points, and the fact that in the last 21 Grand Prix’s he has been outqualified by his retiring team mate Fernando Alonso, that led to McLaren changing their driver line up for the 2019 season.
The McLaren team however were interested in keeping Vandoorne in their driver program, despite his lacklustre results. They expressed an interest that he may be linked with the team’s possible venture into IndyCar.
But Vandoorne has apparently decided against that idea, and has opted instead to join Formula E alongside 2018 DTM champion Garry Paffet at HWA. He will not only be the only ex-F1 driver joining Formula E this season, as former Williams driver Felipe Massa will make his debut at the Venturi race team as well.
HWA racelab are a new entrant to the Formula E grid this year, and are a Mercedes affiliated team. They will race in the 2018/19 FE season before Mercedes will take over their place on the grid in 2019/20.
“There is a lot happening in our team at the moment,” said HWA team principal Ulrich Fritz. “After the official team presentation last week, we are today announcing the signing of Stoffel, which means we’ve slotted yet another piece into the puzzle that is our Formula E project. Stoffel has demonstrated his talent and his speed not only in Formula 1, but also in the 2015 GP2 which he won by a wide margin.”
“In Stoffel and Gary, we have two Formula E rookies on our team, which in any case is making its own debut in the electric series. That’s why we all have a lot to learn together. However, Gary and Stoffel are outstanding racing drivers who have a wealth of experience gained in Formula 1 and in the DTM. In addition, both know how to work in collaboration with the engineers to develop and fine-tune a new racing car. These are precisely the sort of strengths that will count for a lot in our first Formula E campaign. It gives me confidence that we and our two drivers are well prepared for the challenges ahead.”
The three day pre-season test for season five of Formula E gets underway in Valencia in Spain on the 16th of October, with the season opening race in Ad Diriyah in Saudi Arabia on the 15th of December.