Team supremo Ron Dennis has warned McLaren's rivals that Stoffel Vandoorne is "not for sale". The Belgian and reigning GP2 champion, who made his impressive F1 debut in injured Fernando Alonso's car in Bahrain, says he is keen to step into a full-time cockpit for 2017.
"I'm pushing very hard and know I've got a very good shot at it and hopefully I'll be in the car next year, that's definitely my goal," the 24-year-old, currently McLaren's official reserve, said. "The number one priority is to be with McLaren."
The implication of Vandoorne's comments is that other teams may also be expressing interest in him. Indeed, team boss Eric Boullier suggested recently that he could be loaned to a rival team if there is not room for him at McLaren, whose current drivers are Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso.
But Dennis on Thursday sounded determined that Vandoorne's future is very much in a grey McLaren. "Stoffel is an extremely talented, intelligent and hard-working young driver, with an enormous amount of potential, and who importantly knows how to win," he told GMM.
"As such he's an integral part of McLaren-Honda's future, and any other team that imagines they may be able to poach him away from us is very much mistaken. As regards our 2017 driver lineup, we aren't yet ready to commit or communicate, but you may rest assured that Stoffel is not for sale," Dennis added. (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing