Photo: Renault Sport/DPPI
We chat with Stoffel Vandoorne, one of our drivers to watch in 2013, as he replaces Formula Renault 3.5 champion Robin Frijns at Fortec after succeeding him as Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 champion…
Congratulations on winning the championship last year. A key part of your campaign was your consistency, always finishing in the top four until the last race of the year. What was the secret?
In every championship I drove I have always finished almost every race without crashes. It’s difficult to explain, but I know when I have to back out of something that will result in a crash. I always had a car that performed at any track and I tried to extract the best out of it. This is the biggest part of my consistency.
Your career is supported by the Belgian federation, the RACB. In which areas do they help you out?
They’ve helped me with everything until now. They find the funding for me and help to place me in the right team and series on my road to F1. Beside that I can also benifit from a physical trainer from the RACB who helps me with my fitness.
You were selected for the FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy in 2011. What did you gain from that initiative?
It was very useful to be part of the FIA Young Driver Excellence Academy. A group of experienced people – Alex Wurz, Robert Reid and many more – were teaching us all the details we need have to be ‘Excellent’ in our sport in any area – fitness, driving techniques, planning, media.
In 2013 you step up to Formula Renault 3.5. What are your hopes for the coming season and which drivers do you think will be your main rivals?
My hopes are very high. I’m expecting a lot of myself. I will drive with the championship-winning team and car. My tests with Fortec at the end of last season went very well, with even a track record in Motorland. It won’t be an easy job with drivers like [Antonio Felix] Da Costa and [Kevin] Magnussen in the series. They are two drivers that people expect a lot from. I won’t make their lives easy, that’s for sure!
After testing with DAMS and Arden Caterham, you chose to sign with Fortec. What attracted you to the British team?
From the first moment I felt good with the people in the team, and I felt the car was behaving like I wanted. Going with the champions is never a bad choice I guess!
How important was the prize fund you received for winning the Eurocup in making the step up to FR3.5?
It was a key factor for me. Without the prize money I’m not even sure if I would have been driving this year.
Belgium has a successful history in racing but has had little presence in Formula 1 in recent times. Why do you think this is?
It’s difficult to tell. Maybe no one was really good enough or they didn’t have the funding to prove themselves. In these days its very important to get the right people behind you otherwise things are very complicated in F1.
How did you get into racing? Is there any motorsport history in your family?
My father designed an indoor karting track near my home. I always went with him, and the boss of the karting track always let me drive. That’s pretty much how everything with racing began.
We?ve spotted you in action in simracing. How long have you been doing it and does it help you on the real track at all or is it just something to do in your spare time?
I’ve been doing it for a few years now, but I’m doing it less and less because I don’t really have much time for it anymore. I mostly used it to learn new tracks. I’m doing some online races sometimes as well, just for fun.
Take a look at Stoffel in action here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y20IcGDNr3s
You launched your single-seater career by winning the F4 Eurocup title in 2010, and the series has produced a number of top young drivers in recent seasons. What makes it such a good series to compete in?
I think you can really see who is the best. The cars are the same and we couldn’t adjust anything to the setups. The one who wins it is the one who is fastest, so you can really spot the talented drivers.
At the end of last year you were involved in selecting a new recruit for the RACB National Team. What can you tell us about the winner, Neal Van Vaerenbergh?
He will be doing the same as me, starting in the French F4 Championship. He’s proven himself the best in the car amongst the other drivers from the selection event. How he will perform this season is still early to say, but pressure is on as Benjamin Bailly and myself won the series before him!