“Drivers of 2014: Stoffel Vandoorne”
Following a season long battle with eventual GP2 Series champion Jolyon Palmer, in the end Felipe Nasr couldn’t hold onto the runner-up spot.
In his stead, the super impressive and quick Stoffel Vandoorne piped the Brazilian at the last and considering the Belgian’s natural speed and rate of improvement during what was his first GP2 season, this was a deserved position.
Realistically though, it is something of a stretch to call the McLaren Development driver a rookie at this level, considering his run in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series in 2013. He was impressive then and he remained impressive in GP2.
Vandoorne starred from the off. Victory in the season opener at Bahrain appeared to set the ART Grand Prix man for a powerful campaign, but the season returned to Europe, they hit a stumbling block.
Early season changes in the management and engineering departments began to take effect, while Vandoorne began to suffer difficulties with the Pirelli tyres, just as both Palmer and Nasr hit their stride.
Following a four-week break after Monaco, the season came back together for Vandoorne, starting with a podium in Austria, before repeating that feat in Germany and Britain.
A win in the Sprint Race at the Hungaroring signposted the latter third of the season, where Vandoorne launched into a run of two victories, two podiums, four pole positions and a fastest lap.
Unfortunately for Vandoorne, Palmer was at this point long past the point of being caught; however the Belgian focused on his new charge of catching and passing Nasr with determination and authority.
Yet, it appears the Brazilian has had the last laugh. Whereas Nasr moves up to Formula One with Sauber, a significant change in driver line-up at McLaren for the 2015 Formula One season means that the ART Grand Prix man is now fourth in line at the Woking team. Another year in GP2 looms and it is a campaign that Vandoorne must stamp upon.
Vandoorne could easily slot into Formula One now, but it seems apparent that one of the brightest young stars of recent years is now on the verge of being locked out of the sport’s top level.
And that’s sad.