Lando Norris, the McLaren driver who has been an indispensable part of Formula 1 since his debut in 2019, celebrates his 24th birthday today. The Briton has almost completed his fourth season in the premier class of racing, but his career seems to be just getting started. And rightly so: his performances stand out, the fans love him and the top teams keep a close eye on him, while McLaren also has more and more to offer him. The teams seem to be lining up for him, but no one can outline his future better than himself. On his birthday, F1Maximaal looks back on his career so far, with the future in mind.
His interest in the sport started early, when his father Adam took him to experience the atmosphere at the national karting championship in Great Britain at the age of seven. It was love at first sight for the young Norris, who shortly afterwards got behind the wheel of a kart. It soon became clear that he was in the right place there, because he won several titles at European and international level. His performances were already noticed at the time and so he was given the opportunity to try his luck in other competitions, such as the Toyota Racing Series and the British Formula 3 Championship.
In 2017 the time had finally come: the first real breakthrough seemed imminent when he started his first full season with Carlin in the then European Formula 3 Championship. Miraculously, he managed to live up to expectations. He finished the season with twenty podium places, including nine wins, and managed to determine the championship with two races to go. The Briton was undoubtedly on the right track, as his success in Formula 3 led to his fifth title in four years. It was therefore inevitable that the opportunities flew around Norris’s ears.
He himself did not want to stop, because in 2017 he also made his Formula 2 debut for Campos Racing in Abu Dhabi, just after the end of the Formula 3 season. It ultimately turned out to be a harbinger, because for the 2018 season he returned to the old nest to play a full season in the junior class with the Carlin team. Despite the consistent results, the Brit also suffered some bad luck, which quickly saw his chances in the championship disappear like snow in the sun. Yet there was no reason to panic, because the rest is now history: that place in Formula 1 would undoubtedly come.
McLaren followed Norris’s career closely
The McLaren Formula 1 team already noticed the talent of the young Briton and decided in February 2017 to officially take Norris under their wing. He was assigned a role as junior driver after McLaren CEO Zak Brown could no longer keep his praise for the Briton’s talent to himself. As the team’s junior driver, Norris could count on a role during the test days at the Hungaroring in 2017. This gave him the opportunity to try out the car of the British racing team, and then also come first. set the fastest time.
At McLaren they quickly knew they had made the right choice by bringing him on board, so they decided to wait no longer. At the end of 2017, the British racing team announced that Norris would officially take on the role of test and reserve driver from 2018, and that ultimately turned out to be nothing more than an intermediate step towards the real thing. The Brit drove his first free practice in a Formula 1 car in the Belgian Ardennes, and after the session on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit, a further six practice sessions followed for Norris to try his luck behind the wheel of the McLaren car . Ultimately, those opportunities were not an unnecessary luxury, because the Briton’s Formula 1 career continued to grow at a rapid pace.
At the end of 2018, the decision was finally made when Norris was announced as a driver for the McLaren team in 2019. Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso announced in 2018 that they would leave the team at the end of the season, and so Norris and Carlos were given Sainz was asked to replace them. Since the collaboration with Honda, which supplied the engines to the British racing team until 2017, McLaren had a hard time keeping its head above water, and Norris and Sainz were faced with the hellish task of getting the team back on track. to get.
A lot has happened since then. Carlos Sainz left for Ferrari in 2021 and was replaced by Daniel Ricciardo, but the Australian did not get the hang of it at McLaren. One race stood out in the 2021 season: Ricciardo took victory in Monza, followed by Norris in second place. It was the first victory for the British team since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix, and the result was unexpected to say the least. For Ricciardo, this would be the only highlight of his two-year adventure at McLaren, as the Australian was defeated week in week out by his British teammate. Ultimately, both parties decided to part ways, and so Norris was the only one left.
Norris achieves milestone after milestone, but one is missing
McLaren’s presentations and capabilities often left much to be desired, but Norris has remained loyal to the team so far. For better or for worse, he worked with full dedication to get the most out of it, and that is a credit to him as a person and a driver. But when you do good, you meet good, because as the 2023 season progressed it increasingly seemed that his patience was paying off. In recent months, the British racing team has regularly been able to send him out on the track with excellent equipment, which has resulted in him finishing on the podium several times this season. Together with teammate Oscar Piastri, he is now bringing McLaren back to where they belong.
However, things are not always going well for him, because there are still plenty of milestones that the Briton seems to keep missing. It is increasingly looking like Norris is going after Nico Hülkenberg. The German has never managed to reach the podium, and the McLaren driver currently seems to have a similar curse when it comes to victories. It started in 2021, when Norris was head and shoulders above Ricciardo for pretty much the entire season. Yet in the end the Australian took the victory when that rare opportunity suddenly presented itself.
In 2023 it seemed for a while that Norris could start with a clean slate. Ricciardo made way for rookie Piastri, so as a driver with experience, the Briton himself hoped to come out on top. It is also undeniable that McLaren managed to deliver an impressive performance this season, because thanks to a number of fantastic upgrades, the British racing team was able to exchange the role of bottom line for a battle for the podium places. So all external factors seem to be correct, and the results prove this once again. Norris and Piastri both appeared regularly on stage during the second half of the season, but the curse still rules the career of the talented Brit. Piastri already managed to win the sprint race in Qatar in his first year in Formula 1, while Norris is still dry.
Which team will Norris break the curse on?
So it is putting it mildly that things are often disappointing for the Brit, but it will undoubtedly not be due to talent. Since the beginning of his career, Norris has attracted the attention of friends and foes, and this has once again earned him the necessary appreciation. McLaren is, quite rightly, very proud of the upward trend their driver has shown over the past four seasons, and so they want to do everything they can to keep him within the team. His contract with the British racing team does not expire until the end of 2025, and Brown was previously certain about the development of the cooperation between the two parties.
The American is sure that the Briton will stick to his contract, and is therefore not worried about any interest from other teams. Because how could it be otherwise, there certainly is. Red Bull Racing has repeatedly indicated that they saw Norris as a possible candidate for the seat that will be available at the end of 2025. The Austrian racing team is of course not the least employer within the premier class of racing, so it says a lot about Norris’ qualities that they see him as a serious option. As Horner previously emphasized, everyone at Red Bull has a lot of appreciation for the young Briton.
Teams are reporting from all sides, but Norris remains determined. Even when he had discussions with Red Bull, he still opted for an extension of his contract with McLaren, so there appears to be no lack of mutual trust between both parties. That is only right given the current state of affairs, because the British racing team seems to be only now really getting going. Norris regularly ends up on the podium, and in São Paulo it even seemed for a moment as if he could take the lead from Max Verstappen. In short: in terms of talent, speed and potential, things are going well.
However, the question remains where he will continue his future from 2026. It is of course still early to speculate about this, because he still has two seasons left in the McLaren car. The Brit is in the right place with the team and according to him there is no doubt that he can reach great heights together with them, but the competition is not giving up yet. Regardless of his future plans, it seems almost a matter of time until Norris wins his first victory. A victory is still a long way off, but if the Brit keeps both feet on the ground, things can hardly go wrong.