The young Belgian, who flew in at the last minute to deputise for his injured colleague, started 12th, stayed out of trouble on the incident-filled opening lap and then pulled off some confident passing moves as he drove cleanly and consistently to the chequered flag.
“This result was more or less what I expected - I maximised the opportunity and I’m quite satisfied,” said Vandoorne, who had not even tested this year’s McLaren prior to arriving in Sakhir.
“The start was a little bit difficult. There was debris left and right - it was pretty hectic in fact - and there was a lot of fighting throughout that opening lap.
“Since the beginning of the weekend, I’ve felt very confident in the car, and pretty comfortable that I could do a good job. I’m pleased that I didn’t make any mistakes operationally - I was really focusing on that side of things - and I came away with a point, which was a nice bonus.”
McLaren racing director Eric Boullier was full of praise for his team’s reserve driver, whose point brought some consolation after Jenson Button’s early retirement with a power unit issue.
“Stoffel did that remarkable and noteworthy thing: he scored a world championship point on his Formula One debut,” said Boullier.
“In so doing, he capped a very fine weekend, which began with a late call-up and a lengthy two-leg flight from Japan, and ended with what can only be described as a flawlessly mature performance.”
It remains to be seen whether Vandoorne, the reigning GP2 champion, will be back in the cockpit for the next round in China - Alonso will undergo further tests before confirming whether he will compete in Shanghai, following the rib and lung injuries he sustained in his Australian Grand Prix accident.
“This weekend was a big opportunity for me: I made the most of it, I showed what I’m capable of, and now I just need to wait and see what happens next,” concluded Vandoorne. “That’s not for me to decide - so let’s see what the future brings.”