Stoffel Vandoorne to be dropped by McLaren

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McLaren have announced that Stoffel Vandoorne will be dropped at the end of the season.

Vandoorne’s departure could pave the way for Lando Norris, the British team’s reserve driver, to take his place next year.

Norris, the 18-year-old Englishman, has participated in practice at the last two grands prix for McLaren, and is on a three-driver shortlist for 2019.

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon are also in contention for the seat, although it is understood that the former has already agreed a deal with Force India for next year.

Frenchman Ocon has strong ties with Mercedes, and it is uncertain whether they would allow him to join McLaren on a permanent deal.

Spaniard Carlos Sainz has already been announced as one of the two McLaren drivers for next year.

Vandoorne, 26, replaced Jenson Button at McLaren for the 2017 season, but despite a steady opening campaign, the Belgian has been desperately out of sorts in recent races.

He has not scored a point since the fourth round, while Fernando Alonso, the double world champion who is retiring from the sport at the end of the year, has beaten his team-mate in qualifying at every race this season.

Vandoorne qualified last for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix before he took the chequered flag in 12th.

“It is clear we haven’t provided Stoffel with the tools to show his true talent, but throughout our relationship, he’s proved to be a fantastic team player,” McLaren CEO Zak Brown said.

“For now, we look to the future and to the remaining grands prix in 2018, where I know both Stoffel and Fernando will be pushing hard to fight for as many points as possible.

“We wish Stoffel all the best in whatever direction he chooses to take next in his career. We will announce our full driver line-up for 2019 in due course.”

Vandoorne, who has scored just eight points this season, 36 fewer than Alonso, could be handed a Formula One lifeline by Toro Rosso or Sauber.

“I am very grateful to McLaren for investing their faith in me over the past five years,” Vandoorne said.

“I joined McLaren as a young driver and have since seen my career progress with the team, from test and reserve driver to full-time race driver.

“While we haven’t achieved the success we all hoped for, I’ve really enjoyed the past two seasons racing for McLaren.

“I intend to give it my all for the remaining seven races of this season and will announce my plans for next season in due course.”

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