LONDON Rising Belgian prospect Stoffel Vandoorne will be McLaren's Formula One reserve driver this season while also competing in the GP2 feeder series, the team announced on Thursday.
The 21-year-old from Kortrijk won the Formula Renault 2.0 series in 2012 and was runner-up to Denmark's Kevin Magnussen, who will race for McLaren this year, in the 2013 World Series by Renault 3.5 championship with four wins.
"I feel I'm making good progress towards my ultimate goal: Formula One," said the Belgian, a member of McLaren's young driver programme and tipped as a future F1 driver, in a statement.
"I'll do whatever I can to help the team's two Formula One race drivers...to achieve as much as they possibly can this season."
The former champions, who had a dismal 2013 season and have yet to confirm who will be their team principal for the new campaign starting in March, have 2009 world champion Jenson Button paired with rookie Magnussen.
McLaren sporting director Sam Michael said Vandoorne was a "truly excellent young driver" who had impressed the team already over the past year.
"His technical input is first class, he's excellent in our simulator and he isn't afraid of hard work," he said.
"He's also very quick indeed...so we expect him to do well in GP2 this season and let's see what happens after that."
Vandoorne will be racing for the ART GP2 team, who took McLaren's 2008 F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton to the 2006 series title as well as German F1 drivers Nico Rosberg (2005) and Nico Hulkenberg (2009).
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Justin Palmer)