Newly-appointed Renault racing director Frédéric Vasseur reveals that the French constructor could not hire Stoffel Vandoorne to replace Pastor Maldonado due to McLaren’s reluctance to let the Belgian ace go.
Vandoorne won the GP2 Series in dominant fashion last year with the Vasseur-led ART Grand Prix team, but the 23-year-old had to settle for a reserve driver role at Woking after McLaren picked up Jenson Button’s option for 2016.
With Maldonado’s contract looking less and less secure over the winter, rumours about a potential Vandoorne/Renault tie-up started surfacing. However, Vandoorne himself dismissed the speculation in a phone-in interview with reporters last month.
“There have never been discussions with them,” he said. “I am contracted to McLaren, I believe in this team and it is where I want to be. Hopefully we can have a good future together here.”
Having successfully negotiated Esteban Ocon’s loan from Mercedes, Vasseur hints that Renault tried proceeding likewise to offer Vandoorne its second race seat alongside Jolyon Palmer. But to no avail.
“We had to forget the idea of hiring Stoffel,” Vasseur told Belgian publication La Dernière Heure. “He has a McLaren contract and the team did not want to let him go. We needed a driver who was available and that’s how we chose Kevin [Magnussen].”
The irony is that Vandoorne earned his reserve promotion after the Dane had been dropped by McLaren.