McLaren Honda test and reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne who was drafted in by the team to sub for Fernando Alonso who is suffering from a broken rib following his huge crash at the Australian Grand Prix.
McLaren tried to appeal the FIA medical delegate decision not to allow Alonso to race this weekend however that appeal was rejected and Vandoorne has out-qualified his more experienced team mate Jenson Button in his first Formula One race. The Belgian will start the Bahrain Grand Prix from 12th place while Button will start the event from 14th.
Vandoorne joined McLaren in 2013 as a member of the team’s young driver programme before being named as a reserve driver in 2014. It is not the Belgian’s first time driving for McLaren as he has tested extensively for the team.
The talented young rookie will be driving alongside teammate Jenson Button using the number 47.
The Belgian was happy describing his debut race in Bahrain as a Birthday present turning 24 on Saturday, he commented by saying:
I turned 24 on Saturday so this is a very good birthday present! Today has been great – I wasn’t expecting to drive this weekend, but I’m very happy for this opportunity. I’m going to try and do as good a job as possible for the team. I feel 100 per cent ready for this and today was a very good day for me. I haven’t driven this car before but I quickly felt comfortable in the car, progressed quite a lot through FP1 and then had quite a good feeling through FP2 as well. The most important thing for us was to do a lot of laps; we did a lot of pit stops, practice starts, the operational stuff, really, to cover all the things I have to learn. During my trip here from Japan I had a lot of preparation work and learning to do – the engineers sent me a lot of stuff and I’ve been through it all – I spent my time well on the plane! There’s still a lot of things we have to go through tomorrow and definitely before the race, but so far everything has been very good.