Zak Brown insists McLaren will not place too much pressure on Lando Norris to try and help the team recover from its recent poor form in his rookie year.
Norris arrives in Formula 1 after an impressive junior career that included the European Formula 3 title in 2017 and finishing runner-up in the Formula 2 championship last year. Promoted to a race seat at the age of 19, Norris joins the team after it ended 2018 with one of the least competitive cars on the grid but Brown says it is down to McLaren to provide better machinery rather than expect Norris to have a major influence on any recovery.
“Obviously Lewis (Hamilton) came into McLaren but we were winning races at that point,” Brown said. “So I think there’s certainly been rookie drivers that have come into teams in high-pressure environments, whether that was pressure to continue to deliver because the team’s already winning races or pressure to help us on the journey of recovery, (but) I think it’s first and foremost the responsibility of McLaren to get us back to our winning ways.”
Norris replaces Stoffel Vandoorne — who also excelled in junior categories — after the Belgian failed to perform consistently in F1, and Brown is wary of the way rookie drivers can be quickly judged after seeing Charles Leclerc bounce back from a tough start to 2018 with Sauber to earn a Ferrari
“I do think Formula 1 can be a pretty cruel environment. If you look at Leclerc, I remember there was commentary I think after the first two or three races of whether he should still be in Formula 1. And now he’s driving for Ferrari. So I think what we need to do is manage expectations, not after
three races pass judgment — which we as a sport are always pretty quick to do.
“(Norris) clearly is extremely talented. We’ve seen him in our race car a good amount now and what we need to do is nurture him, manage expectations internally and externally, and give him the equipment to show his talent.”