Lando Norris committed his future to McLaren because he believes it can win a championship in the coming years based on its most recent gains and planned new wind tunnel.
McLaren has been using the Toyota wind tunnel in Cologne for its aerodynamic development in recent years but is undergoing a project for a state-of-the-art tunnel in Woking that it hopes to have operational sometime in 2022. After signing a contract extension that ensures he’s not in the frame for potential openings at Mercedes and Red Bull next year, Norris said it’s because he has confidence McLaren can deliver a title-winning car and attributes it to “a combination of a few things over the past couple of years that we’ve done, but then also things that we have coming up in the future.
“I guess having our own wind tunnel is one of the biggest things,” Norris noted. “How much easier it will make their lives in the factory — the guys and girls who have to travel all the way to Germany every time and go to the wind tunnel, spend time in isolation, there for three weeks, then come back and spend time in isolation again and so on — so we lose a lot of time compared to other teams who are able to do it a lot quicker.
“That, just mixed with what we have now. I think what we have now is still taking a couple of years to settle into place and come more together for the next few years. We’ve had these rules for a few years now where we were a long way behind, we’ve caught up a lot — and the fact we’ve managed to catch up as much as we have has been pretty good.
“But then in 2022 everything is different, so I have the belief that we can start off on a much better foot. I would want to say from the best foot possible but you still know that Mercedes and Red Bull are going to be fast from the off next year. But if we can start much closer then we will still be able to progress from there on.”
Even if a team that looks set for more instant success — such as the current top two — had come calling for Norris’ services beyond this season, he insists his loyalty towards McLaren would have made it tough to consider leaving.
“I think I owe a lot to the team for giving me the opportunity to be here and everything. Getting to do the FP1s and in-season tests that I did back in 2017, a lot of that set me up to come into Formula 1 in a good way. So they helped me a lot — I was in a lot of races the year before with them; I went to a lot of races with them just getting to know the engineers and working with them.
“They’re the reason I’m in Formula 1 now, so I owe them a lot. I think loyalty is one of the biggest things in terms of respect between us. So it wouldn’t be an easy decision, for sure.”