Here Comes Lando: A look At The New McLaren Rookie.
It didn’t really come as much of a surprise when last week, it was announced that McLaren F1 team and Belgian driver Stoffel Vandoorne would be parting ways for the 2019 season. Que British rookie Lando Norris, who was announced to take Vandoorne’s seat and to partner Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr in the Woking based team. However, who really is the newest rookie to join the Formula One spectacle?
Born in Bristol in November of 1999, Norris initially sought-after motorcycle racing but changed his mind after watching a round of the Super 1 Kart Championship with his father and brother. He won the CIK FIA World Championship, becoming the youngest winner of the series. He also joined the Ginetta Junior Championship that year, finishing third in his debut year.
For 2015, Lando joined Carlin in the newly formed MSA Formula series, which he took the title win in. He also took the title in both European and NEC Formula Renault 2.0 series in 2016, as well the top spot in the New Zealand based open wheel series, the Toyota Racing Series. He also embarked on a Formula 3 Euro Series campaign with Carlin in 2017, winning the title in the first round of the triple header finale at Hockenheim.
In February 2017, McLaren announced that they had signed on Norris as a junior driver. He took part in testing sessions for McLaren, including the mid-season test after that years’ Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring. They announced Norris as the official test driver for the team for 2018 in November 2017.
After his Formula 3 success, Norris moved up to Formula 2 with Carlin for 2018, the F1 feeder series, where he currently sits in 2nd position in the Drivers Championship with 187 points, and with four rounds to go in the championship, his closest rival fellow British driver and Mercedes junior driver George Russell. He also took part in his first official practice session in F1 at the recent Belgian Grand Prix, where he replaced Fernando Alonso in FP1, managing to set a faster time than a struggling Vandoorne. On the 3rd of September 2018, following the announce of Vandoorne’s departure from the team, Norris was announced to be the driver to partner Sainz for 2019.
I’ve been following Norris after coming across his Facebook page while he was competing in the F3 Euro Series and grew a general interest after watching him race, I was happy to see him win the title because he had a good season and deserved it. He’s also doing very well in Formula 2 and I am looking forward to seeing him debut in F1 next year.
I am however worried about the future of Norris’ career after he starts with McLaren. As we know Vandoorne is a very good driver, not forgetting his brilliant debut at the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2016 where he replaced the recovering Alonso from his Melbourne crash and took McLaren’s first 2016 point, scoring on his debut. I still believe Vandoorne is very good and more than worthy of an F1 drive, but due to McLaren’s below standard cars lately, I fear this has blighted how McLaren consider Vandoorne, and I don’t want the same happening to Lando should McLaren not improve enough in the future.
Hopefully Vandoorne can manage to find a seat in F1 for 2019, but as Lando looks forward to his first Grand Prix outing when the championship starts in Melbourne on the 17th of March, he will be doing all his best to impress and remind his employers why they chose him to race in 2019. He is a fantastic driver and for sure one of the big names for the future.