Vandoorne entered Formula E two seasons ago with the Mercedes-affiliated HWA team, finishing 16th in the championship with a best finish of third place at the 2019 Rome E-Prix.
His fortunes dramatically improved last season, however, when the team morphed into the official works Mercedes team. Vandoorne finished as runner-up in the final standings to runaway champion Antonio Felix da Costa, scoring podiums in both races of the season-opener in Diriyah before a maiden Formula E victory came at the season finale in Berlin.
Dutchman Nyck de Vries will return to partner Vandoorne once again for a second full season of Formula E. The 2019 Formula 2 champion endured a more challenging campaign last season than his Belgian counterpart, finishing 11th in the final standings with his one and only podium finish coming at the final race in Berlin.
Despite his low classification compared to Vandoorne, de Vries did show significant promise throughout the season and would likely have finished much higher in the standings but for a series of penalties and unfortunate incidents that impacted him earlier in the year.
Commenting on the renewal of his driver lineup, team principal Ian James said: “We went into [last season] confident in the ability of both [Vandoorne and de Vries] and the potential that we had to continue to develop as a team..
“I think the results speak for themselves; both of them performed admirably throughout the season so it was a very easy decision [to re-sign both] and at the end of the day, we always wanted two drivers who very much could be part of that development as a team.
“I’ve spoken many times before about the complexities of Formula E and it is so different to other series out there and the driver plays such an instrumental role, not only in terms of how fast they are on track, but also in terms of the feedback they give to the team and how that team can then develop.
“From a character perspective, both of them fit into that role very well indeed so it was a natural and very easy choice to continue that relationship into Season 7.”
Vandoorne believes the Mercedes team must aim for a championship challenge this season to build on the promising results achieved at the end of last season.
“For sure, our expectations for next year will change. We finished third in the teams’ championship and myself second in the drivers’ championship, but if you look at the season, it was very specific circumstances with the whole COVID situation to have the six races in nine days, I hope next season will be a more normal season but for sure, the target is to fight for the championship,” Vandoorne said.
“I hope we will be in a position to do it, but I think if you look at how the championship panned out last season, you had Antonio Felix da Costa who really kind of walked away with the championship and had a big margin to myself in second – and then second to 10th place in the championship was very close, so I think for me, I think the first target is to really close down that gap or try to be consistent every weekend, score as many points as possible and try to close down and be closer to first place in the championship.”
The former McLaren F1 driver also offered his thoughts on the reasons for his team’s improved showing at the season finale in Berlin.
“I think not only in Berlin, but in a lot of races last season we were very competitive, but we were never really able to put ourselves in a position to fight for victory. What changed in the last race is that I think everything kind of fell into place and went our way. We had a great qualifying, putting the car on pole, and then I knew starting from pole position, I knew that we had the pace to win,” he added.
“Obviously, to do it is another thing because it’s quite a different race when you are leading the pack compared to when you are chasing and behind let’s say, so I was confident that we could do it and yeah it was the first kind of real opportunity we had to get a victory. The team was capable of doing it and it was really well deserved because we put a lot of effort into it.“
In addition to Vandoorne’s Formula E commitments, the Belgian has also been carrying out simulator duties for the German manufacturer’s Formula 1 team. After missing out on a last-minute F1 return as deputy for the unwell Sergio Perez earlier in the season, Vandoorne confirmed that he will retain an association with the F1 team, but could not confirm whether that will be as an official reserve driver.
“I don’t know yet at the moment, I can’t tell you because I don’t know myself. I guess things will depend on what happens in the Formula 1 driver market,” he said. “It looks like there are some uncertainties, but we’ll wait and see. In any case, I’ll still be working with the Formula 1 team on the simulator, and then we will see about the reserver drive role but yeah, I am here, I am ready.”