Renault Sport F1 boss Cyril Abiteboul says he is keeping track of Stoffel Vandoorne as a potential contender for a seat with the works team next season.
The French outfit hopes to keep Carlos Sainz in its team alongside Nico Hulkenberg next year, but should Daniel Ricciardo leave Red Bull, the energy drink company could exercise its right to bring Sainz back to the Milton Keynes-based team.
Abiteboul is looking at Vandoorne as a matter of covering its options, just in case.
"Do not say that Stoffel will join Renault because it is absolutely not the case," he told Belgian daily La Derniere Heure.
"But he is a driver that we look at. When I wonder about the possible options, I take Vandoorne into consideration."
The 26-year-old McLaren driver has already said that he has no intention of moving away from Woking and believes he is the team's future.
However, McLaren may not share that view given his under-performance this season relative to team mate Fernando Alonso.
"I think his situation is quite difficult. I don't know the ins and outs, but sometimes a change of environment allows a driver to get the oxygen to bounce back," said Abiteboul.
"He was fast, talented, consistent in all of the lower categories and there is no reason for all that to disappear," he insisted.
"But when you have Fernando next door it's complicated, especially in McLaren's circumstances of recent years.
"But he is a high level driver that we can look at in the future, depending on how our situation evolves," said the Frenchman.