McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl believes Lando Norris became a complete Formula 1 driver after the summer break, having taken a measured approach to the start of the season.
Norris finished runner-up in the 2018 Formula 2 championship and was promoted to a race seat in F1 this season alongside Carlos Sainz, with the pair helping McLaren to comprehensively lead the midfield battle and finish fourth in the constructors’ championship. Seidl himself only joined as team principal at the start of the European season but was impressed with the way Norris approached his rookie year and developed quickly by focusing on gaining experience.
“For Lando as a rookie, it is clear to see that he was simply building it up over the course of the season,” Seidl said. “He was quick straight out of the box in Melbourne, he went into his first ever qualifying and ended up in Q3, which proved that it was the right choice to go for him and showed what a talent he is.
“At the same time it’s normal that he took his time also in order to build up experience and get more and more aggressive in the races — especially the race starts, where he took it more conservatively at the beginning of the season, because it’s important that he finishes the races to build up experience.
“Then I would say from the second half onwards he was a complete F1 race driver, because when you see the starts that he has done, how he’s doing the races, it’s impressive. He was simply a bit unlucky with technical issues and so on, which were many times in the way of big results.”
Although Norris impressed, Sainz was the lead driver in terms of points in 2019, securing sixth in the drivers’ championship ahead of both Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon. Seidl says the Spaniard had to take on different responsibilities but was encouraged by how closely matched the two drivers were in terms of raw pace.
“On Carlos’s side, the situation was a bit different. He was new to the team but you could see that he already has some experience with other teams. So it was important from the first test last year to help develop the car together with the engineers, to give a clear direction. He simply was there over the course of the entire season — in both qualifying and the races — and the result you see in the number of points he scored.
“Also, for Carlos we have to keep in mind we also had races where we lost good points with him with technical issues. When you look at the result of the qualifying, for example, to have 11-10 (in favor of Norris), it’s something that is great for me to see because it simply confirms that we have two top, quick drivers.”