Talking to….Stoffel Vandoorne

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He has been in the spotlight more than any other driver in his series, mostly for reasons out of his control. The mere fact that he has taken the same path as the highly regarded Robin Frijns has made Stoffel a target for high expectations.

He is well-placed for success, though. As the reigning Formula Renault 2.0 champion, Stoffel is one of the favorites for the 3.5 title. Add to that the backing of Fortec Motorsoprts, and you have a winning recipe. Stoffel will now hope that he doesn’t encounter any troubles this season as he hunts down Kevin Magnussen for the championship.

1. You came into this season with a lot of outside pressure; you were seen as the next Robin Frijns. How has this affected the way you approach the season?

It didn’t really affect my approach. I tried not to think about it. I knew I have a similar driving style to Robin, and with the same car we can almost do equal things. This was making me feel confident.

2. How is the relationship with your teammate, Oliver Webb? Do you get along? Do you help each other out at races in terms of setup directions?

We have a good relationship. We get along well and we help each other during the weekend. This is the best way for both to improve instead of hiding everything.

3. What made the Formula Renault path more attractive to the GP3/GP2 path?

Well, it was my only choice to make the Formula Renault path. I don’t have the money to put into GP3, F3 or GP2 so the best solution for me was winning the FR2.0 Eurocup and getting the prize money to make the step into FR3.5. I think it is now one of the best series on the road to F1, and F1 teams tend to place their junior drivers in the Formula Renault series.

4. Your championship campaign got off to a great start when you won the first race of the season. You’ve had some trouble recently, though. How do you keep yourself motivated when things don’t go according to plan?

The speed has always been good, and when things didn’t work out for us, I knew it was bad luck or either mistakes we made. This kept me motivated to carry on, as I we didn’t lack pace and I knew we could battle for victories.

5. What was it like to win in front of your home crowd in Belgium? What emotions went through your mind?

It was amazing! I won my home race in 2010 when I drove in the F4 Eurocup 1.6 championship, but winning in Formula Renault 3.5 is even greater. It was just so cool to have so much support from all the people and fans around. Everybody was just cheering for me and they were all really happy about the result. This just gives you so much motivation to carry on, and fight for victories!

6. How did you get into racing? What got you interested?

My dad designed the restaurant of an indoor karting track when I was 6 years old. I sometimes went with him, and the boss of the karting always let me drive. The boss then also bought me a little go-kart and from then on I never stopped driving.

7. As you’ve been compared to him a lot, do you think you may end up struggling to find a race seat after Formula Renault 3.5 like Robin has? There is a lot of competition out there?

It’s not easy for sure. Everything has to be perfect and you also have to be lucky to get into F1. Having the right people around you makes it a bit easier, but I’m not losing hope.

8. Is the goal after this season to get a third driver role at a F1 team, or do you think a race seat is possible?

At the moment I’m not thinking about next year too much. It’s still too early in the season and first I want to concentrate on Formulaa Renault 3.5 and make the best out of this.

9. Who do you think will be your toughest opponents over the course of this season?

I think definatly Kevin Magnussen. He has shown great pace, and also his consistency is great this season. This is also why he is now leading the championship. It’s still a long way to go and I’m sure if we do well we can catch him by the end of the year. Ultimatly, you only have to be leading the championship after the last round 🙂

10. Finally, what has been your favorite race of your career so far and why?

Well, last weeks one in Spa was one I will always remember for sure. It’s something special winning at home. Another one I liked was Paul-Ricard 2012. I spun from the lead in the opening lap and fell down to P19. The track conditions were really tricky, as everyone was on slicks and it started to rain. I managed to finish the race in P2 again which felt like a victory as well.

Best of luck to Stoffel for the rest of the championship! The Formula Renault 3.5 season promises to be epic!

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