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Stoffel Vandoorne Q&A: It felt good to be back in the car!

08 Jul 2014

McLaren handed 22-year-old test and reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne his first run in an F1 car at the post-race test in Spain back in May. Several months later the Belgian got the chance to climb back into the MP4-29 at Silverstone. Afterwards he spoke to reporters about how it felt to be back behind the wheel of a Formula One machine…

Q: Stoffel, it was your first time back in the car for a while. How did it go?

Stoffel Vandoorne: It was definitely good to be back in the car. We did quite a few laps today, not as many as we’d have liked, but anyway it was some good running. We did a lot of aero work in the morning - development runs - and this afternoon we did a bit of work on tyre degradation. All in all it was a pretty good day for me.

Q: How much did it help that you drove the whole weekend at Silverstone in GP2, and how much did it help having driven the car before?

SV: It definitely helps all the time. At Barcelona I’d driven the whole weekend there (in GP2) before I did my first lap in an F1 car. You’re already better prepared to jump in the car. Obviously Formula One was very new to me in Barcelona, but here I knew what to expect from the car. It was quite easy to get to grips with it, but it’s still only my second time in the car so I still have to learn things.

Q: You’ve done a lot of simulator work with McLaren. How close is it to reality?

SV: The simulator work is very important, especially for rookies. I do a lot of work in there to be as best prepared as possible when I get in the car. I think it’s a very big help to me.

Q: Were there any new parts on the car today?

SV: No, not really, it’s was more about understanding the package we’ve got. My job is just to be as consistent as possible during the day so that the team get good data and can compare the things we are testing on the car.

Q: Did you do any specific preparations for the next race in Germany?

SV: I think it was just more of a general understanding for everywhere. I did some tyre work this afternoon to get some experience with that, so I think whatever we learn here will help us everywhere.

Q: Could you feel that the team have made progress since the last time you drove the car in May?

SV: I could feel progress, yes, which is very encouraging. Obviously there is still some work to do, but it’s very good to see that there is progress. I’m looking forward to seeing if there is some more progress the next time I am in the car. It’s difficult to say specifically where progress has been made - I think there’s just more general downforce.

Q: With this test out of the way, is your focus now on your GP2 Series campaign?

SV: My main focus for 2014 is focusing on GP2 and trying to do a good job there. I’m obviously testing for McLaren as well - and on those days I try to do the best job possible - but GP2 is my main focus at the moment.

Q: How do you feel about the fact that the number of in-season test days is being reduced next year?

SV: We have to take the rules how they are - it’s the same for everybody. That’s how it is at the moment - it’s the same for all young drivers. At the moment I’m getting very good opportunities from McLaren and I’m very grateful that I get these opportunities to drive the car.

Q: How quickly can you push in the real car off the back of your simulator work? Is it enough for a young driver to learn in a simulator and then be thrown in as a race driver?

SV: There are always differences between simulator and reality, but at the end of the day I’m driving in GP2 which is the closest car to F1. So the step is not that big. It takes a few laps at the beginning to get used to everything, but it’s part of our job to push these cars.