In the words of his McLaren team, it was always less a matter of ‘if’ Stoffel Vandoorne would race in Formula One than ‘when’ - and the ‘when’ arose after he was called up from his reserve role to deputise for the injured Fernando Alonso in Bahrain 2016.
Born in Kortrijk, Belgium, in 1992, Vandoorne began his motorsport career aged six and earned his first race and championship victories in national karting series, going on to finish runner-up in the KF2 World Cup in 2009.
In 2010 he graduated to single-seaters, winning the F4 Eurocup series at his first attempt, scoring six victories as he wrapped up the title with two rounds in hand.
He moved into Formula Renault in 2011, winning the 2.0 Euro series the following year with Josef Kaufmann Racing after securing four wins and six podiums. Stepping up to the 3.5 series in 2013, he became vice-champion with four wins and also joined the McLaren Young Driver Programme.
McLaren signed Vandoorne as their Formula One reserve for 2014 and he combined his growing F1 duties with a maiden GP2 campaign with ART. After winning first time out - as he had done in Formula Renault 3.5 - he ultimately finished second to Jolyon Palmer after four victories and 10 podiums.
His GP2 momentum building, Vandoorne proved unstoppable in 2015, taking seven wins, 16 podiums, four pole positions and five fastest laps as he landed the series title in dominant fashion.