Lando Norris wants to learn from the struggles Stoffel Vandoorne has faced as a rookie at McLaren to ensure he doesn’t suffer the same fate as a number of recent young drivers in the team.
Vandoorne reached Formula 1 with a huge amount of excitement and expectation after dominating the GP2 championship in 2015, but will be replaced by Norris after two difficult years in a race seat. Vandoorne’s stint follows Kevin Magnussen and Sergio Perez each being dropped after one year at McLaren, and when asked if he will try to learn why the Belgian failed to live up to the hype, 18-year-old Norris replied: “Of course.
“I think if I can learn anything from Stoffel and from the team as to why they don’t think he was good enough, why they think I could be better, whatever I can to help myself improve and whatever they can do to help myself improve…. I think especially with Gil [de Ferran] coming in, I think they have much more of an understanding now of what needs to be done for myself and Carlos [Sainz] and helping us improve and show what we can do.
“I think Stoff, I rate as a pretty damn good driver — probably higher than most other drivers on the grid. But yeah, I think getting put against Fernando [Alonso], going into Formula 1 when McLaren are probably at their worst ever, it’s not easy.
“Coming from championships where you can be in such a good team, always challenging for the win, and then going into a category where there’s so many good drivers — out of how many people and drivers in the world, to be there with only 20 drivers, they’re all pretty damn good.
“I think it’s just an unlucky circumstance, basically, that he was thrown in at probably the deepest end possible. But yeah, I think anything I can learn from what he’s not done well enough, what he’s done good, even from the [practice sessions] I’ve done, I’ve already learned from him. There are things altogether which can help me and hopefully not go down the same path.”
Norris believes both he and 2019 teammate Carlos Sainz will benefit from McLaren acknowledging it is in a rebuilding phase that is likely to see the team unable to challenge at the front for a number of years.
“I think McLaren need a fresh start, and I think as a team, they need two young drivers who are willing to say we don’t need to win — we don’t want to win, let’s say, within the first two years of joining the team. I think that’s a very realistic goal for both Carlos and myself.
“We’re not going to be winning next year, and probably not the year after. It’s going to be a few years before we get back to where we should be. Of course I want to say I’m better than the other drivers, but I have something to prove, whether it’s something against Carlos or just in general over the next year.
“It’s too hard to say what’s going to happen. I think as long as I do a good job and put in all my effort to proving that I’m worth it, then everything should be fine. I’ve been given two FP1s, a couple of tests, and I think within those few tests, I’ve proved that I’ve done a good enough job. Especially in the FP1s where it really counts and matters, that I’m able to deliver when I need to and I’ve got the pace.
“They want to help me develop into however they need me to be, pretty much. Every driver is different, so I just hope whatever I do is going to be good enough, because it’s not that I just want to be with McLaren. I want to win with McLaren. I don’t think it’s going to be in the next two years, I think it’s more of a longer project than just being with the team for one year.”