APRIL 16, 2017
Vandoorne still future champion says Vasseur
Stoffel Vandoorne remains a "future champion" despite his difficult start to the 2017 season.
That is the claim of former Renault boss Frederic Vasseur, who is back in the paddock this weekend with his GP2 team ART.
Vasseur has worked with several former GP2 champions, including Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and more recently Belgian Vandoorne, who in 2017 has stepped up with a full-time F1 race seat at McLaren-Honda.
But the Anglo-Japanese partnership is struggling, as is the 24-year-old rookie in comparison to his highly rated teammate Fernando Alonso.
However, Vasseur says it is too early to judge Vandoorne.
"We cannot tell anything from the first three grands prix," he told the Belgian broadcaster RTBF.
"I am convinced that Stoffel is a great future champion and two difficult races will not change that for me.
"The fact is that he has started a season with an avalanche of technical problems, and this is probably the worst situation for a young driver who needs to acclimatise to a team and learn circuits on which he has never raced.
"Every time he has had the chance, he has shown he is there. Now he must take things calmly.
"In Bahrain he finally arrives at a circuit he knows, even if it has not gone smoothly, but after that are Russia, Spain, Monaco, all places he knows.
"I am convinced that Stoffel is one of the most brilliant drivers of recent years, he just has to go through this difficult period and keep the positive and constructive attitude he has about the team," said Vasseur.
"It's hard to compare a Lewis Hamilton of 2005 with a Stoffel Vandoorne of 2017, but he is one of the best I have had."
And so Vasseur says that while comparisons to Alonso are not possible yet, Vandoorne has the best possible teammate for his rookie season.
"Having Alonso as a reference point is important," said the Frenchman.
"He is one of the best two or three drivers, so we can judge his (Vandoorne's) progress in the second half of the season."