Vandoorne’s impeccable performance and track record in the junior ranks fully justified his promotion to the big time in 2017 and the hype that went with it.
But racing for a team that had lost its way following its failed partnership with Honda and internal management struggles left the inexperienced Vandoorne with a massive challenge on his hands, and one that ultimately he could not surmount.
Norris for one is a believer in the 26-year-old’s talent, and suggests it was all about being in the right team at the wrong time for Vandoorne.
“Stoff I rate as a pretty damn good driver, probably higher than most other drivers on the grid,” said Norris earlier this week, after his nomination as a McLaren driver for 2019.
“But I think getting put against Fernando, going into Formula 1 when McLaren are probably at their worst ever, it’s not easy going from championships where you’re in such a good team, always challenging for the win.
“Going into a category where there’s so many good drivers out of how many drivers and people there are in the world, getting down to 20 drivers, they’re all pretty damn good,” he added.
“I think it’s just an unlucky circumstance basically that he was thrown in probably at the deepest end possible.”
One man who fully sympathizes with Vandoorne’s current plight is Kevin Magnussen, who made his grand entry into F1 with McLaren in 2014, only to be dropped from the Woking-based outfit after a single year.
The Dane admitted he didn’t have much advice to hand to Stof, but dwelling on his own experience he suggested a fresh start may be exactly what Vandoorne needs.
“Personally I think he’s very talented and capable so I think he’s just got to try and find the best in himself, that he knows he can do it,” said Magnussen.
“I can only say that it was good for me to get a fresh start and to come somewhere that really supports you.
“For me coming here [to Haas] and feeling the support and feeling the commitment from the team, helped a lot for me to feel confident and kind of just relaxed.
“You don’t worry about making mistakes and you don’t worry about not performing so much.
“You can focus on actually performing and actually doing well and actually extracting the performance from your talent rather than worrying all the time.”