Much of the success a Formula One driver will have during his career is based on decisions they make when signing new contracts. Lewis Hamilton entered the sport in 2007 with a McLaren team easily capable of winning both championships that season. Hamilton has commended the philosophy of his early McLaren cars on their original designer Adrian Newey.
Newey’s last car design for McLaren was the MP4-20 in 2005 before he joined Red Bull Racing the following season. Yet Newey was heavily involved in the 2006 Woking team’s car which preceded the MP4-22 for Hamilton’s first season.
McLaren in slow decline after Lewis’ title
Despite winning his first championship in his second year, McLaren Racing were in a slow decline from the very top for the rest of Hamilton’s time with the team.
Lewis decided to quit the team late in 2012 and joined Mercedes in the final year of the V8 engines. The following season his decision was vindicated as the German manufacturer produced by far the best of the new V6 hybrid power units.
The rest is history, Lewis would take 6 of the next drivers’ titles and the team 8 from 8 constructors’ championships.
Clearly his decision to join Mercedes transformed his career.
Alonso F1 choices questioned
Fernando Alonso, a two times world champion, made choices that didn’t work out quite as well for him.
Alonso made his F1 debut for the Minadri team in 2001. The car was uncompetitive and he chose to became the Renault test driver for the following season before being elevated as a main driver in 2003.
The Spaniard won his first world title with Renault in his third year with the team and made it a double in the following g2006 season.
Fernando then joined McLaren as the recently crowned consecutive double world champion but Spygate issues and a poor relationship with Lewis Hamilton saw him leave the team just a year later.
Fernando not an easy team mate or employee
Alonso returned to Renault for two more uncompetitive seasons before the call came from Ferrari alongside Felipe Massa and remained with the team for 5 frustrating seasons.
He returned to McLaren from 2015-2019 before retiring from the sport only to return with Alpine in 2021. For next year the Spaniard is off to try his luck with the Silverstone based Aston Martin team.
Fernando has not been the easiest employee or team mate arguing with bosses and fellow drivers. Yet since his dramatic climb to the top of the F1 tree with Renault in 2005/6 he has made decisions to sign with top teams as their trajectories are downward.
In the mean time new outfit Brawn won a title as have relative newcomers Red Bull Racing and Mercedes.
Alonso proud of his F1 teams
When asked by Gazzetta dello Sport about his contract decisions, Alonso replied: “I’ve driven for Renault, McLaren-Mercedes, Ferrari, McLaren-Honda.”
“How many drivers would sign up for a career like that?”
Lando Norris is believed by many F1 observers to be a world champion in the making. He joined the team in 2019 and has a contract believed to run to the end of the 2025 season.
The British driver will spend 7 years with the historic British F1 marque who are fighting for best of the rest outside the current big three teams.
Lando Norris chooses McLaren
Yet Lando Norris could have made different choices. Helmut Marko tried to sign Lando for Toro Rosso to replace Brendan Hartley for the 2019 F1 season.
Norris subsequently made his F1 debut for McLaren in 2019 alongside the more experienced Carlos Sainz and fared as expected in his rookie year. He signed a 2 year contract taking him to the end of 2020.
In 2020 Lando was much closer to the soon to depart Sainz who was heading to Ferrari.
McLaren recruited the then 7 times GP winner Daniel Ricciardo to race alongside Norris for the next two seasons and the young Brit has outshone the Australian who due to his relative lack of success is taking a year out.
Lando snubs Red Bull F1 twice
However Christian Horner now reveals Red Bull racing wanted to recruit Lando Norris twice and were snubbed by the Brit on both occasions.
“We’ve spoken with Lando a couple of times over the years,” Horner explained to assembled media in Mexico.
“But every time we’ve had a conversation, the next day he’s signed a contract with McLaren.
“He’s on a long-term contract and looks like he’s going to be there for a few more years.”
Having spurned Toro Rosso for 2019, the Faenza based team released Brendon Hartley and promoted Pierre galley to the senior Red Bull outfit. Daniil Kvyat was brought back alongside F2 third place driver Alex Albon instead of Norris.
Norris replacement races with Verstappen year 1
After a poor start to the season, Gasly was dropped back to Toro Rosso and Albon promoted alongside Max Verstappen.
Had Lando Norris been in the team, would it have been him promoted to the then quadruple drivers’ and constructors’ winners?
Red Bull Racing stuck with Albon for the entire 2020 season before replacing him with the more experienced Sergio Perez the following year.
Clearly if Horner implies they tried to sign Lando Norris twice, it would have been when orris was free from his first two year deal with McLaren for the 2021 season.
Lando choices questionable
Given gassy had been given his chance and sent back to the junior team who recruited Yuki Tsunoda as part of their deal with Honda – surely Norris would have been alongside Max Verstappen instead of Sergio Perez.
It’s highly unlikely McLaren will be a front running team for at least 2 more seasons if not longer and to the end of Norris current deal in 2025.
Hopefully Lando will not end up playing the failed F1 musical chairs game that Alonso has engaged with for much of his career. The fans surely wold love to see Lando Norris competing with Verstappen and whoever else is fighting for F1 wins and titles.
Though maybe he’ll come to rue the 5 year deal he signed with McLaren.
A reminder that Martin Brundle's grid walks are iconic 😂 pic.twitter.com/II3So6wZiy
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) November 2, 2022