2012 Formula Renault 3.5 champion Robin Frijns believes his Fortec replacement Stoffel Vandoorne can thrive under the relatively low expectations of his rookie season.
Vandoorne graduates into the FR3.5 after triumphing in the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup, just as Frijns did in 2011.
Frijns went on to seal the title despite being a rookie and competing against a stellar grid which included a host of Formula 1 junior drivers.
Frijns, who has been signed up as Sauber's new F1 reserve driver, tipped Vandoorne to surprise in next year's campaign. The 20-year-old Belgian broke Frijns's lap record on the final day of FR 3.5 testing at Aragon in November.
"I think Vandoorne is going to do well, he was really quick in my car in testing," Frijns said. "He is like me [in 2012], a rookie, so he is more free than some of the other guys because he doesn't have to win the championship in the first year. The more experienced guys have a lot more pressure to win the championship."
Vandoorne earned 500,000 euros toward a FR3.5 budget after winning his two-liter crown, and also tested for DAMS during the off-season. He said choosing Fortec was an "easy" decision, however.
"My choice was quite easy between the teams I have tested for in FR3.5," Vandoorne explained. "I felt very good with Fortec straight away, and we showed some really good speed during the post-season tests.
"I'm happy that finally the deal is done, and I can start focusing on next year. The step from FR2.0 Eurocup to FR3.5 was quite big; the FR3.5 car has a lot more downforce and power compared to the FR2.0 car, but it's a car I like to drive and I feel very comfortable in it."
Team manager Jamie Dye tipped Vandoorne to feature in next year's title fight, adding: "He has the attitude and drive to make his mark on the championship and I'm extremely confident he will be one to keep an eye on next season."