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Stoffel Vandoorne on "expectation" of being Formula E champion and new-season uncertainty

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Despite having won his first Formula E title last year, Stoffel Vandoorne’s feet remain firmly on the ground.

Now an established name in the all-electric series, the Belgian driver has achieved what every racer dreams of doing. But even though he can proudly call himself a champion, Vandoorne knows he doesn’t have the time to be patting himself on the back.

“It’s not every year you get the opportunity to fight for a championship and to become a world champion, so it still feels very good – what we accomplished last year,” he said, sitting down with Mirror Sport for an interview ahead of the Diriyah E-Prix.

“But, motorsport is never standing still. It’s always kind of, you finish one race and then the focus is on the next one, and that’s very much where my mind is at right now. It’s a completely new season, Gen3, a lot of new things happening.

“I’ve changed teams with DS Penske as well so my mind is very much focused on this new season to try to have some great results.” His title defence has already begun – the new Formula E season kicked off with the Mexico E-Prix earlier this months.

Did it feel any different for Vandoorne, heading out on track with a target on his back as the man to beat? “I wouldn’t say specifically from my point of view, but from the people around there is this kind of expectation because you come in as champion, so people expect you to do well.

Vandoorne raced a Gen3 Formula E car for the first time earlier this month at the Mexico City E-Prix
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Getty Images)

“I would say that’s normal – I didn’t expect anything else – but from my side I was fairly relaxed with that and just focussed on my job. There are so many things to learn with this car and it’s a bit of an unknown for everybody where we’re going to be, exactly. I’m just trying to maximise that opportunity and hopefully fight at the front again soon.”

Mexico didn’t go too well for Vandoorne or his DS Penske team. They had looked very competitive in practice but qualifying was a disaster. Neither he nor team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne were able to make much of an impression, and Vandoorne scored the team’s solitary point with a 10th-placed finish.

He later explained his belief that, under the championship’s current rules, “overtaking becomes kind of impossible” as a race progresses. How quickly he can get used to this new generation of cars, and other changes, may decide whether or not he can successfully defend his crown.

Vandoorne concluded: “It’s normal to want to defend my title, or be in a position to. It’s just a lot harder this year to make those predictions, whether it will be possible, just because of the amount of change that’s happened. The new cars, I’ve changed teams – there are a lot of unknown factors at the moment.

“We’re not quite sure where we stand. We had a very competitive test at Valencia and then we struggled in Mexico. I think consistency is going to be very important and, every weekend, trying to optimise the package that we have.”

Stoffel Vandoorne was speaking as an ambassador of SAUDIA, the national airline and National flag carrier of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. For more information on SAUDIA’s partnership with Formula E and how you can get access to exclusive content and prizes visit www.takeyourseat.saudia.com.

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