2019 McLaren driver Lando Norris is “as fast as anyone we’ve seen” and will get more seat time this year to help him develop, says McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown.
Norris was confirmed as Stoffel Vandoorne’s replacement on Monday, with the 18-year-old stepping up to make his grand prix debut next season. Currently second in the Formula 2 championship, Norris has appeared in the last two FP1 sessions (pictured at Monza) and Brown says all of the indications are that he has the pace to compete with anyone on the grid.
“Well, it’s hard to tell until we see Lando out there further but he was impressive in Spa Free Practice 1,” Brown said. “Stoffel did have some challenges with that particular session; he wasn’t able to have a clean session. Then Lando was trading times with Fernando [Alonso] in Monza in difficult weather conditions.
“So from what we’ve seen from Lando so far he seems to be about as fast as anyone that we’ve seen, but we know it takes more than speed to be a world champion driver. Hence the various tests to see how he would get on. He’s testing this week in Paul Ricard. Everything we’ve seen out of him is that he’s as good as you get at this stage of their career.”
Brown says Norris will be carrying out a number of further FP1 sessions this year, but is unlikely to drive in Russia or Abu Dhabi due to F2 also racing at those venues.
“Yeah, we’ll put him in for another four or five Free Practice 1s. I think we’ll try and keep him away from some of the Formula 2 weekends. The ‘Hurry up, get out of there in FP1 and go and run to Formula 2’ I don’t think has done him any favors the last few races. You only have to be off by that much [small] to be off by that much [big].
“I think that while the Free Practice 1s have been really good for us, he’s made the comment to me that he actually feels more comfortable in the Formula 1 car now than in the Formula 2 and we’d like to see him win the Formula 2 championship, which he’s still got a chance at. But he’s got to hustle.”
Norris is currently 22 points behind Mercedes youngster George Russell in the F2 championship standings with two rounds remaining.