LONDON (Reuters) – Belgian driver Stoffel Vandoorne says he has to be racing in Formula One next season and has options if McLaren do not hand him Jenson Button’s seat.
Vandoorne has already competed in one grand prix for McLaren, replacing Fernando Alonso in Bahrain in April and scoring the team’s first point of the year after the Spaniard’s big crash in Australia.
He is strongly tipped to take over from 2009 world champion Button, the sport’s most experienced driver with nearly 300 grands prix to his credit, who is out of contract at the end of 2016.
“I’ve been pushing for this for a long time and hopefully things work out for next year,” Vandoorne told Sky Sports television during testing at Silverstone on Wednesday.
“I’ve done all the preparation I could do…I’ve even done a first Grand Prix now so, yes, 2017 I have to be on the grid.
“I feel very positive about next year, I feel confident I will be in a car so hopefully a decision comes sooner rather than later,” he added.
The 24-year-old Belgian won last year’s GP2 championship, the feeder series that has provided a string of Formula One drivers including Mercedes’ triple world champion Lewis Hamilton and his team mate and title rival Nico Rosberg.
If McLaren were to retain Button alongside Alonso, there are several other outfits who are likely to be interested in signing Vandoorne, whose GP2 boss Frederic Vasseur is now running the Renault team.
“I would love to race for this team (McLaren), but…if for some reasons, which I don’t know, it doesn’t become possible then I’m positive that there are other options available,” Vandoorne told reporters at the test.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)