Vandoorne debut puts added focus on Button

Thu Mar 31, 2016 2:21pm EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

MANAMA (Reuters) - Jenson Button expects Stoffel Vandoorne to be a quick learner when the Belgian makes his Formula One race debut for McLaren in Bahrain this weekend after Fernando Alonso was ruled out on medical grounds.

But the British veteran, who used to share a manager with Vandoorne, will also be doing all he can to be comfortably faster than his team mate.

Vandoorne is seen not only as a star of the future, dominant winner of the GP2 support series last year, but also the man likely to replace the 2009 world champion at the British team when the time comes -- possibly next year.

Bahrain will be the first time the two can be measured against each other in the same machinery and in the heat of battle.

Button, the most experienced driver on the grid with 285 race starts and 16 seasons behind him, has been a match for Alonso at McLaren and will be expected to outperform the rookie who turned 24 last week.

Anything less than that, in normal circumstances, would not be good news for a highly-paid driver who is out of contract at the end of the season.

Button knows that Vandoorne, potentially a far cheaper option, will be doing all he can to impress his paymasters.

"Stoffel is a very experienced driver, he’s raced here a couple of times and he won here last year (in GP2)," Button told reporters in a somewhat strained exchange in the team hospitality.   Continued...

Formula One - F1 - Brazilian Grand Prix 2015 - Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, Sao Paulo, Brazil - 12/11/15
McLaren's Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Stoffel Vandoorne pose ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix
Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Hoch Zwei