Tales from the paddock: Stoffel Vandoorne: “The most important thing is that we carry forward the momentum into the new season”

Nov 25, 2020

Action on two fronts: Next weekend brings the end of the 2020 Formula 1 campaign closer, while the Formula E teams begin their winter tests.

  • This is what happened: Results and facts
  • News from the Mercedes-AMG Motorsport teams
  • Four questions for Stoffel Vandoorne
  • Social media news: What’s new online?

This is what happened: Results and facts

  • Macau: Two victories for the Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the Macau GT Cup and two more wins for the Mercedes-AMG GT4 in the Greater Bay Area GT Cup
  • GT4 France: Podium finish for the Mercedes-AMG GT4 in Race 2 at Circuit Paul Ricard
  • Super Taikyu: Victory for the Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the five-hour race at Motegi

News snippets

Bahrain, here we come: The 2020 Formula One World Championship has been a season like no other: difficult circumstances that posed immense challenges, an unusual racing calendar and record-breaking performances from Lewis Hamilton and the team. The sprint finish to the campaign begins this weekend in Bahrain with the first of two races at Sakhir. Before a new, shorter track makes its debut on the second of the two weekends, the team will first race on the familiar Bahrain International Circuit. The track has been a regular fixture on the F1 itinerary since 2004 (with the exception of 2011) and has produced seven different winners so far. Sebastian Vettel is the most successful driver (four wins) ahead of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton on three wins each. The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team has won four out of six races since the beginning of the hybrid era in 2014, but only once in the past three years. Alongside Lewis’s three victories, Nico Rosberg also contributed a P1 to the team’s tally. The first Bahrain victory in a car powered by a Mercedes engine was achieved by the eventual World Champion Jenson Button in the 2009 season driving a Brawn-Mercedes developed at Brackley and Brixworth.

Testing in Valencia: Season 7 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship gets underway this coming weekend with the official tests. From Saturday 28 November to Tuesday 1 December with a rest day on Monday, all twelve teams will be working hard during three days of testing at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo on the outskirts of Valencia, which has been used in the past as a test track for F1 and for other purposes, including the recent MotoGP races. It will be the fourth time in 2020 that Valencia has hosted Formula E, though there will be one significant difference on this occasion - the track will be without a chicane for the first time. The Mercedes-Benz EQ duo of Nyck de Vries and Stoffel Vandoorne will be taking turns to drive the team’s Mercedes-Benz EQ Silver Arrow 02. Two test sessions are scheduled for Saturday and for Sunday (09:00 - 12:00 CET; 14:00 - 17:00 CET) and one for Tuesday (09:00 - 15:00 CET).

Victory number three for the Mercedes-AMG GT3 in Macau: Contested as part of the 67th Macau Grand Prix, the Macau GT Cup once again confirmed in impressive fashion the strength of Mercedes-AMG Motorsport in the Asian market. Victory on the famous Guia Circuit went to a Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the third time, the other two wins having come in 2017 and 2019. In fact, this was already the fifth success for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport in Macau. Ye Hongli (CHN) of Toro Racing was in dominant form as he delivered a lights-to-flag victory in the main race which was supposed to be twelve laps of the narrow street canyons. Darryl O’Young (HKG) of Craft-Bamboo Racing also made an impressive charge through the field. He thought he had booked pole position in the qualifying race but was then handed a ten-place grid penalty. O’Young had worked his way up from eleventh to third place when an accident on lap ten brought out the red flags and halted his forward momentum. The race was brought to a premature end, and O’Young was classified fourth due to the count-back rule. Five Mercedes-AMG GT3s and one Mercedes-AMG GT4 in the Top Ten constituted a strong team result. Instead of the FIA GT World Cup, this year’s race was designated the Macau GT Cup due to the current travel restrictions, with only Asian teams participating.

Mercedes-AMG Motorsport also won the Greater Bay Area GT Cup, in which only GT4 cars competed. David Pun (HKG) of Team TRC was in a class of his own right from the start, booking pole position with the best time in qualifying and posting victories in both the qualifying race and the main race.

Podium finish and class win on the final weekend of GT4 France: The GT4 France season ended with a podium finish for Mercedes-AMG Motorsport in the final race at Circuit Paul Ricard. Thomas Drouet and Paul Petit (both FRA) in the number 88 Mercedes-AMG GT4 fielded by AKKA ASP finished third in the second of the two one-hour races, which was enough to hand them class victory in the Silver Cup. The CD Sport pairing of Edouard Cauhaupé (FRA) and Fabien Lavergne (FRA) finished the season as runners-up in the driver and team classifications of the Silver Cup.

Next victory in the Super Taikyu: In the fourth round of the Japanese Super Taikyu at Motegi, HIRIX Racing extended their championship lead with a second victory of the season. Yuki Nemoto, Daisuke Yamawaki (both JPN) and Shaun Thong (HKG) in the number 888 Mercedes-AMG GT3 crossed the finish line first at the end of the five-hour endurance race. Endless Sports and Team 5ZIGEN also delivered podium successes for the Mercedes-AMG GT4 as second and third in the ST-Z class.

Four questions for Stoffel Vandoorne

Stoffel Vandoorne is about to embark on his third season in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship. Over the course of 24 races, he has so far posted one victory, booked two pole positions and made four podium appearances. He finished the 2019/20 season as runner-up in the drivers’ championship and in season 7 will once again be lining up for the Mercedes-Benz EQ Formula E Team.

You finished the season on a high in Berlin. Has that given you a big boost in your preparations for Season 7?

Stoffel Vandoorne: Finishing on a high was obviously great. Ending a season with a win always feels real nice, because the momentum stays with you for a while afterwards. Also, it was a victory the team had really deserved to pull off for quite some time. We performed well but never quite managed it. When we finally achieved success, it gave the team and myself an enormous amount of confidence, as we felt we’d ticked off a box. We now know we can do it and must take this momentum with us into the new season which I am really looking forward to, by the way. Last season was tricky and the circumstances extraordinary, but now, we have one more year’s experience behind us and should be well placed next season with our new car, hopefully.

How challenging is it for you as a driver to race while having to think about all the strategic elements at the same time?

Stoffel Vandoorne: It’s extremely challenging. Formula E is technically very demanding and we invest a lot of time and effort in preparing for race weekends. The reason we spend so long in the simulator before races is because in Formula E, we are contesting one-day events. We try to do as much work as possible before arriving at the track. You see, sometimes, there’s simply too much information to process once you get there, which is why we test for a few days in the simulator first in order to have plenty of information and data to hand. It serves to reduce the workload out on track to some extent, so that we can focus more on other things. As a team, we try to analyse how the others will react to certain scenarios and how we ourselves should tackle them. But in the end, things always go differently in the race, no matter how well you plan in advance and regardless of how much time you put into preparations. Ultimately, things never go as expected. Different things keep cropping up that must be dealt with as they happen, requiring good communication between driver and team.

How important is this aspect of working with your engineers?

Stoffel Vandoorne: It’s mega important that you and your engineer understand each other well so that he knows precisely what you mean from what you say as a driver. Everything happens in a split second. You have to stay calm, because there’s so much information to take in, and also, you have to be able to tell him what’s happening so that he can give you the right feedback. That’s very important in Formula E. My race engineer Marius and I got on well in that respect last year. It was our first season together and I think we built up an excellent relationship with one another. Of course, we had to get to know each other a little bit first and find out what we both needed, but we’ve definitely made very good progress.

What would make you happy by the end of Season 7?

Stoffel Vandoorne: What’s most important is that we take the momentum from the final round in Berlin with us into the new season. Finishing second in the drivers’ standings and third in the team competition has increased the pressure on everyone in the team to do even better and improve on those results, but we have to remain realistic. We’re still only in our second season and Formula E is a very tough world championship series. We had to deal with unusual circumstances last season, which may or may not have played in our favour – it’s difficult to say, but the goal is to contend for wins on a more regular basis. Let’s think again about last year. Yes, I finished second in the drivers’ championship, but then, ten other drivers could have achieved that equally as well. The deficit on first place was quite large in the end, so our primary objective should be to reel in the leader regardless of where we end the season. Of course, I would like to be a world championship contender, but first, we have to try to narrow the gap and become even more consistent. We must be at the top of our game at all times and that applies to the team standings as well. We make a very strong team along with Nyck. He achieved his maiden podium at the end of the season and boosted his self-confidence as a result, so I think we’re well-placed to benefit from the momentum effect I mentioned earlier.

Social Media News

#HAMIL7ON: The World Champion speaks! Following his seventh title win, Lewis Hamilton answered questions from his fans, ranging from ‘cheat day’ meals and his last ride in a go-kart to whether he ever had to sneeze while driving. Here’s what he said:

Watch video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAJHt___WXY

#RaceDebrief: James Vowles answers the big questions arising from the Turkish Grand Prix: the rate at which the track surface dried up, the reason why the W11 struggled in qualifying, how much data the team had about the intermediates and why it was better to run them down to slicks.

Watch video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=KX2XwdU1K6U

#Onboard: Esteban Gutierrez takes the wheel of the Mercedes-AMG F1 W08 EQ Power+ and does a lap of the historic Goodwood Circuit.

Watch video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zGTdA7dU4w

Tales from the paddock
Tales from the paddock