Lando Norris aged 23 and firmly established as McLaren F1’s number one driver and a future Formula One champion in waiting surely has the world at his feet?
The British born racing driver became used to winning races and championships in his formative years before F1. He was the MSA Formula champion in 2015 and remarkably claimed all three of the the Toyota Racing Series, Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and the Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European championship in 2016.
Norris exceptional junior formula results
Lando joined the McLaren Young driver Programme in 2017 winning the F3 championship with Carlin who retained his services for their F2 team in 2018 where Norris came second.
Moving straight into the Formula One team Norris partnered the experienced Carlos Sainz in 2019 and claimed the thirds step on the podium at the 2020 Austrian GP before going one better in Monza finishing behind his winning team mate Daniel Ricciardo.
At 20 years of age it seemed the world of Formula One would soon be at the feet of Lando Norris. Yet three seasons later the British driver’s career seems to have stalled.
His McLaren F1 team reached a recent all time high finishing third in the constructors championship in 2020 something they achieved last when Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton were their drivers.
McLaren high point as Lando signs for 5 years
However, 2020 was a high water mark for the Woking based team as each subsequent season they slip a place down the pecking order and are currently in the bottom five ahead of just Haas, Alfa/Sauber. AlphaTauri and Williams.
The 23 point gap to Alpine ahead of them after just seven races this year feels a bridge to far to reach and so the team look doomed for yet another year in the nether reaches of the Formula One World Championships.
Unfortunately for Norris, following McLaren’s best showing in almost a decade, he signed a five year contract wit the team which sees him ties in until the end of 2025. Lando will then be 25 years of age, the same as Verstappen today who is striding towards his third F1 drivers’ title and has the world of Formula One sitting at his feet.
Following his rapid route into Formula One and excellent start in the sport, Norris was contacted by Red Bull Racing as Christian Horner confirms.
Red Bull chased Norris twice
“We’ve spoken to Lando a couple of times over the years.
“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 with McLaren, and it looks like he’s going to be there for a few more years.”
Clearly had Lando played his cards right he would be challenging for race wins and titles alongside Max Verstappen this very year. The counter argument to Norris staying with McLaren is Verstappen could have ruined his career had he failed to beat the Dutchman in the same machinery on a regular basis.
McLaren invest in ageing infrastructure
Yet the five years Lando appears to be spending in the wilderness has been a high price to pay when he could have been driving a championship winning formula One car.
In an attempt to stem the decline, McLaren have made a number of high profile changes which includes the sacking of team principal Andreas Seidl. Yet Seidl has landed himself the group CEO role for the team which is soon to become the well resourced Audi works F1 outfit.
Last time out the team announced the recruitment of Red Bull’s high profile Rob Marshall who will work as Tech Director of Engineering and Design alongside Peter Prodromou (ex-Red Bull aero expert) and David Sanchez (ex-Ferrari chief of car design) in a three headed hydra reporting into Andrea Stella the team principal.
The team have invested heavily in their ageing infrastructure with a new wind tunnel due online later this year together with a state of the art F1 simulator.
Norris content with new tech recruits
Norris believes these are positive signs of the team retaining the highest of aspirations when he spoke to this weeks Sky F1 podcast.
“From the side of the team and the new people, I’m very happy,” said Norris.
“There are some big names coming in which is always a great thing, a great addition. People who have been in the sport for many years who have been a crucial part of the success of other teams.
“Knowledge is one of the biggest things in Formula 1 and personnel, so I think getting some big guys in – not that we had bad people because that’s absolutely not true – but making the force bigger is what we needed to go out and compete against these other teams, Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and so on.
“It’s a very good thing.”
McLaren making improvements now
The team clearly believed they had the odd ‘bad’ person given their sacking of technical director James Key in March this year.
Despite the team’s woeful showing this season, Norris is upbeat claiming signs of progress are already evident and he is excited about the future prospects for the team.
“Already factually there’s been some good improvements from the development rate and things like that, new ideas, new perspectives so already good progress has been made,” Lando explained.
“I’m looking forward to this year, how we can go into the winter and be better prepared for 2024, and by then we’ll have the new wind tunnel and new simulator, and more people coming in 2024 so then I look even more forward to 2025.
Norris has a long wait for 2025
Lando’s last comment reveals he understands the reality of the next two and a half years of his remaining contract. While McLaren are playing catchup, the rest of the field will be pushing on.
And while Aston Martin made a huge leap in just one year from P7 to become the leading challenger to Red Bull the lead time for their investment of around two years is the one McLaren now face.
“So a lot of exciting things. I try in a way not to look too much into the future, but when you’re struggling and [having] difficult weekends then you also want to look at the future,” Norris continued.
“I’m very excited for what McLaren are doing, what they’ve done and the changes we’ve got ahead.”
Aston Martin may come calling
McLaren are on course for their worst season’s finish since 2018 when Fernando Alonso and Stofell Vandoorne battled with the difficult MCL33, there car stat saw the Spanish driver head off to temporary retirement from the sport.
It could be that Lando Norris has a release clause should the team fail to reach a set level of performance but the doors are closing for the British driver as Mercedes are close to agreeing a Lewis Hamilton extension.
If Lawrence Stroll decided he wanted his Aston Martin team to win stuff and ditched his son as one of the drivers, it cold be a match made in heaven for Lando to race alongside Fernando Alonso.
Norris and Alonso an exciting prospect
This paring would give us the measure both of how much Fernando has left in the tank and how far Lando Norris could go in F1.
But for now, Lando will continue to pay lip service to the efforts of the team he is inextricably tied to, like an unhappy marriage with no foreseeable way out.
It took just six races for @LewisHamilton to win an F1 race 🏆
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 10, 2023