Once Fernando Alonso was substituted with Go-Kart racer Stoffel Vandoorne: The ultimate rags-to-riches story of F1

Everyone loves a rags-to-riches story, and while one assumes Formula One only consists of Nepo kids and undeserving drivers, every once in a while, we see a driver make it to the elite form of racing from humble beginnings. Fernando Alonso is responsible for one of these stories. 

Today we look at how Fernando Alonso paved the way for a young Stoffel Vandoorne, a Belgian professional racing driver who got his chance to race in Formula One for the first time in 2016 with Mclaren. 

Vandoorne’s humble roots

Vandoorne got into karting because his architect father designed a cafe near a kart track. The kart owner placed him in a beginner kart to teach him the ropes. As we all know, karting is no inexpensive feat, and due to his limited resources, he could not race sooner than he would have wished.

Finally, he found sponsors and advanced to the Karting Championship runner-up position. Due to low family earnings and the looming financial crisis, he could not get into the pinnacle of motorsport, Formula One. 

Stoffel Vandoorne, ART, GP2, Bahrain, 2014

He thought of innovative ways to earn money, one of which was winning a contest held by the Royal Automobile Club of Belgium at the end of 2009. The prize money was used to pay for a seat in the 2010 F4 Eurocup, wherein he won the championship and paid for Formula Renault 2.0 in 2011.

Stoffel Vandoorne’s made his F1 debut at the expense of injured Fernando Alonso

Stoffel Vandoorne got his one-time shot at racing in Formula One for McLaren in the Bahrain Grand Prix, substituting for an injured Fernando Alonso. He made his family and team proud by securing a point finish in his maiden race. 

After his debut in F1, Vandoorne spent a whole lot of his time driving in the Japanese Super Formula. After witnessing his potential, in September of the same year, McLaren decided to promote him and give him a post of a full-time member of their F1 race team in 2017


Aston Martin has made it clear that for this season, their reserve drivers would be Stoffel Vandoorne and Felipe Drugovich. McLaren can also use these two if the situation arises. However, Vandoorne is currently P9 in the driver’s standings of Formula E, where he races for the team DS Penske. 

With shows like Drive To Survive and youtube channels coming up, we need more media coverage on inspiring and motivating stories like this. Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, and Vettel have had their own rags-to-riches stories and stay tuned with SportsZion to hear about them more. 

Navneeth Menon

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