Stoffel Vandoorne has said he is fulfilling a childhood ambition by sealing an F1 race seat with McLaren for next season.
The McLaren team confirmed today that Jenson Button is to step down from his race drive next season, with Vandoorne, who is McLaren's reserve driver this year, stepping into the vacancy. Vandoorne confirmed that he feels "pretty awesome" about the move and that it fulfills an ambition from since his childhood.
"[It's] something I've been dreaming about since I was a kid," he said, "getting to F1 is something very special. Signing your first F1 contract is something I don't have the words for to describe. I've been with McLaren Honda for a while now and really pushing hard to get into F1.
"Really looking forward to the challenge and I really want to thank Ron for all the belief and the trust to put me in the car next year, really looking forward to a successful partnership."
The Belgian insisted too he wasn't daunted by the prospect of racing alongside Fernando Alonso and with Button – given McLaren retains a 2018 race seat option on him – potentially breathing down his neck next year.
"Definitely it's big shoes to fill" said Vandoorne, "stepping into Jenson's seat is not easy as a young driver, but I'm totally up for a challenge.
"I've been learning a lot [this year] from how they [Alonso and Button] push a team forward, how they help the team with the development."
Vandoorne also paid tribute to Button. "Jenson is a great inspiration for any racing driver and he's been a very big part of this team, and [I'm] very happy to see him continue with us."
McLaren chairman Ron Dennis added that Vandoorne's contract is "so long it's rolled up!"
"We get very committed to drivers" Dennis went on, "if a driver performs he stays with us a long time."