McLaren has confirmed it has promoted its young protege Lando Norris to the role of test and reserve driver for the 2018 season.
Norris has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the junior single seater categories, culminating in the 17-year-old winning this year’s European Formula 3 championship in his rookie season. McLaren has now confirmed Norris – who tested the 2017 car at the Hungaroring this year (below) – will take over test and reserve duties from former driver Jenson Button.
“I’m so excited to be joining McLaren as test and reserve driver for 2018,” Norris said. “The last 12 months have been an incredible journey for me – I’ve enjoyed every single minute – and this is just an amazing way to bring the year to an end.
“I’m really looking forward to helping the team, starting next week with the tire test at Interlagos, and I will work harder than ever to learn and develop across the next year. I have two excellent teachers in Fernando [Alonso] and Stoffel [Vandoorne], and I will do my best to help with the team’s efforts to get back to the front.
“I’m still working hard to finalize my own racing program for 2018 – we’re close on a number of different fronts, but not quite there yet. I hope to be able to announce something shortly.”
RACER understands Norris is close to securing a move up to Formula 2 with Carlin, having secured all of his single-seater success with the team so far. Should Carlin opt not to return to the category it left at the end of 2016, Norris could move to Super Formula in Japan.
Regardless of where Norris races in 2018, McLaren racing director Eric Boullier says the Briton will has plenty of areas in which he can develop in the F1 role.
“We feel it’s very important to have a fully enrolled test and reserve driver within the team,” Boullier said. “Lando will attend grands prix and become a fully integrated member of the team.
“Lando is somebody who arrives with a very high level of ability, ambition and application; it is our job to develop and fine-tune his focus as we increase his understanding of how a Formula 1 team operates and how a modern grand prix car works.
“There will be plenty of opportunity to observe, learn and participate throughout 2018, and we want to make sure Lando is fully prepared, if needed, to step into Fernando or Stoffel’s shoes at a moment’s notice.”
McLaren executive director Zak Brown added his belief that his team has one of the best young talents in motor racing on its hands, with Norris already confirmed to race alongside Alonso for United Autosports at Daytona in January.
“Lando is an outstanding young talent,” Brown said. “Today’s announcement is thoroughly deserved, and underlines the incredible high regard in which we hold his abilities. By winning last year in Formula Renault, triumphing in the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver Award, and then showing the speed and consistency needed to win the European F3 championship, he is undoubtedly carving himself a reputation as one of the very best up-and-coming single-seater drivers in the world.
“His summer test for McLaren was also remarkably impressive, and was further proof that he is ready to step up and take on a role of this size, scope and responsibility. At McLaren, we are all extremely keen to help him achieve his goal of racing in Formula 1.”