Toro Rosso has failed in an attempt to replace Brendon Hartley with McLaren reserve driver Lando Norris for the rest of the season.
Hartley (pictured at left, above) has been struggling in his first full season of Formula 1, scoring just a solitary point in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix compared to teammate Pierre Gasly picking up 18 points in the opening six races. The New Zealander has also been outperformed in qualifying, with Gasly securing Toro Rosso’s two Q3 appearances so far, leading the team to analyze other options if it were to make a driver change.
McLaren youngster Norris is leading the Formula 2 championship and made an impressive debut at the Rolex 24 At Daytona earlier this year, and has been earmarked as one of the standout talents outside of F1. Red Bull approached McLaren about giving the 18-year-old F1 race experience with Toro Rosso, but the approach was rejected.
“We are not surprised that other teams approach our drivers,” a McLaren spokesperson said. “They clearly believe they are as talented as we do.”
RACER understands there remains a chance that Norris — who tested this year’s car for McLaren in Barcelona — could end up in a Toro Rosso this season, with the rejection of the initial approach from Red Bull not being seen as the end of negotiations.
Norris is in the frame for a full-time race seat with McLaren next year as both Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne face uncertain futures at the team. Alonso says he will make a decision about where he races later in the season, while Vandoorne has been beaten by his teammate in all six qualifying sessions so far this season and all four races that both cars have finished.
Speaking to RACER earlier this season, Norris said he would be using his seat in F2 — which races on the same schedule as F1 — to prepare himself for any unexpected opportunities.
“I think the biggest thing [McLaren] want is development from me, learning, and trying to maximize this year to learn as much stuff as I can for if I had the opportunity to jump into Formula 1,” Norris said.
“I’m not just focusing on F2 and learning how to drive in Formula 2. At the same time I’m learning how the F1 engineers would want feedback, learning more about the F1 car, everything I can. So if that opportunity does come I’m more ready to drive in F1 rather than I’ve completed forgotten about F1 and I only thought about F2.”