Lando Norris will make his Formula 1 race weekend debut for McLaren at the Belgian Grand Prix, replacing Fernando Alonso during FP1.
The McLaren reserve driver carried out two days of testing after the Hungarian Grand Prix, and has been linked with a race seat in 2019. With Alonso having now confirmed he will not race in F1 next season, and Carlos Sainz having been nominated as his replacement, McLaren will have the opportunity to evaluate Norris alongside Stoffel Vandoorne during Friday’s opening practice session at Spa-Francorchamps.
“The Belgian Grand Prix is a significant one for McLaren for a number of reasons,” sporting director Gil de Ferran said. “It’s a legendary track on the calendar, and one where we’ve had a great history. Next weekend we’ll be celebrating a very special milestone – the 50th anniversary of our first win, by Bruce McLaren back in 1968, and we’ll all be wearing special t-shirts to mark the occasion on Sunday.
“Secondly, this weekend will be the first time that our reserve driver Lando will drive the MCL33 during a race weekend, as he steps into Fernando’s car for FP1 on Friday. This is not only part of his ongoing development, but also the evaluation and performance evolution of the car. We’ll be taking a strategic view race-by-race at where else this might be beneficial for us over the coming grands prix.
“Spa-Francorchamps has a well-deserved reputation as a racers’ circuit due to its historic significance and popularity among the drivers. We’ll be head down and pushing hard as usual to aim for points for both cars in front of our Belgian fans at Stoffel’s home race.”
After driving in FP1, Norris will race for Carlin in Formula 2 during the rest of the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, while Alonso will be back in the car from FP2.
“Even though Formula 1 has been on its summer shutdown, it feels like a lot has happened since Hungary,” Alonso said. “I’m pleased to finally confirm my decision for 2019, but that doesn’t in any way deter from what me or the team will be focusing on for the rest of the year.
“We still have a lot of work to do and I’m really looking forward to being back in the car from FP2. Although I’ve raced more recently that anyone else on the grid, at Silverstone in WEC last weekend, I still can’t wait to get behind the wheel at Spa. It’s one of the best circuits on the calendar and usually a lot of fun.
“Spa is the longest track we race on and a lot of it is at full throttle, so it will be a challenging weekend for us. But, I feel fresh, motivated and ready to attack the weekend and the second half of the season.”