McLaren Formula 1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne is set to move into Formula E for the all-electric series’ upcoming season with the Mercedes-linked HWA Racelab team.
2015 GP2 champion Vandoorne has raced with McLaren in F1 for the past two seasons, but it was confirmed last month he would be leaving at the end of the year, having finished a race no higher than seventh for the team.
Vandoorne explored options to stay in F1, but, after being snubbed by Toro Rosso and Sauber, looked into other championships in a bid to take on a new challenge.
Sources have confirmed that Vandoorne is now set to sign with the new HWA team in Formula E, with his race debut due to follow at the Season 5 opener in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on December 15.
Asked by Crash.net in Japan how close he was to confirming his racing plans for 2019, Vandoorne said: “Like I said before, there’s nothing really more to comment. I’ve been in touch with a lot of series, a lot of teams.
“I think now, it’s up to me to evaluate what the best possibilities are for the future and take the right call.
“In my head, I’m pretty decided on what I want to do. So yeah, we’ll see.”
Pressed on whether he would be attending next week’s Formula E pre-season test in Valencia, Vandoorne said: “You’ll see.”
Were Vandoorne to take part in the test, which runs from October 16-19, he would only realistically be able to feature on the first day due to his F1 commitments in the United States next week.
HWA will make its debut in Saudi Arabia as a precursor to the fully fledged Mercedes factory entry that will join the grid in Season 6, which starts in the winter of 2019.
The team unveiled its car earlier this week and confirmed DTM title contender Gary Paffett as its first driver. Paffett took part in the Formula E rookie test in Marrakesh earlier this year with Venturi, who will supply HWA with its powertrain for this season.
It is unclear whether Vandoorne would combine his Formula E commitments with an F1 role, although he said after losing his seat that it would be preferable to keep a link open.
“The priority for me is to have a proper racing programme, and obviously in some way, stay involved in Formula 1, to still be connected to this world,” Vandoorne said in Russia.
“I still feel I deserve a second chance in a good and right environment. The priority is first to find a race drive which will be the main focus and target, and then we can see whatever options will open up next to that.”
Vandoorne is known to also have explored options in IndyCar, with Dale Coyne Racing team owner Dale Coyne confirming there had been talks. However, the team is set to partner incumbent Sebastien Bourdais with the incoming Santino Ferrucci for the 2019 season.
Official confirmation of Vandoorne’s move into Formula E is expected next week.