A solid third of the grid in Formula E is made up of former F1 drivers. And now they’ll be joined by another in the likes of Stoffel Vandoorne.
The 26-year-old Belgian pilot worked his way up the formula racing ladder over the course of this decade, winning the F4 Eurocup, Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup, and the vital GP2 championship (now known as Formula 2) along the way.
Like Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton before him, that key achievement put him in prime position to graduate to the big leagues, which he did in 2016 when he stepped up to fill in for an injured Fernando Alonso at McLaren. He remained with the team over the two subsequent seasons (including this one currently in progress), but without so much as a podium and only a handful of points finishes, McLaren’s replacing him for next season as part of a completely fresh lineup.
Left without a ride in F1 for next year, Vandoorne’s moving over to the increasingly popular electric racing series with the new HWA team. Mercedes‘ longtime DTM racing partner, started by (and named for) AMG founder Hans-Werner Aufrecht, is setting the stage this season for Benz’s arrival in the next.
“I am honoured that HWA have signed me for their Formula E programme,” said Vandoorne upon the announcement. “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.”
His wingman at HWA Racelab is another former McLaren driver: Gary Paffett, who previously served as test-driver for the team, and recently won his second DTM championship with Mercedes and HWA.
“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… we all have a lot to learn together,” said HWA chief Ulrich Fritz. “However, Gary and are Stoffel outstanding racing drivers who have a wealth of experience gained in Formula 1 and in the DTM…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.”
Vandoorne’s set to join Paffett this week for the first Formula E pre-season test session in Valencia before flying to Austin for the United States Grand Prix as he finishes out the F1 season with McLaren.