Lando Norris, McLaren, 2020

Lando Norris

Lando Norris was appointed as McLaren’s test and reserve driver at the age of 17. An impressive performance for the team in testing at the Hungaroring in 2017 earned him the position in place of the team’s outgoing driver, 2009 world champion Jenson Button.

Like Button, Norris sampled a kart for the first time at Clay Pigeon kart track. Aged seven, Norris and his older brother Oliver (10), began competing in karting races soon afterwards.

The Norris boys enjoyed the backing of father Adam Norris, a director at financial services company Hargreaves Lansdown who later set up his own investment company. In 2016 he was estimated to have a wealth in excess of £200 million.

At one stage Lando Norris competed in both the KF and Rotax karting categories, at his father’s encouragement, to broaden his experience and give him a feel for different kinds of equipment and tyres. The intensive programme paid off and Lando delivered an impressive string of titles.

He clinched the 2013 WSK Euro series with a round to go. Although he missed out on the European KF title the following year he struck back in 2014, winning the world KF championship title.

2014: Ginetta Junior

Norris moved into racing cars in the Ginetta Junior championship that year. Jack Mitchell, who had raced in the series the year before, was the driver to beat and took an emphatic title win. But as early as round two Norris was able to finish second to him twice.

At Croft he took the first of what turned out to be five consecutive pole positions, three of which he converted into wins. He ended the year with a fourth victory which earned him third in the championship and top rookie honours.

2015: MSA, Italian and German Formula Four

For 2015 the new FIA-backed MSA Formula Four championship offered 15-year-olds the chance to race single-seaters. This was perfectly timed for Norris, who joined Carlin and was among the first to test the Tatuus chassis.

Lando Norris, Carlin, MSA Formula, 2015
Norris clinched the inaugural MSA Formula title
Norris won the inaugural race of the new series at Brands Hatch. He followed it up with another win in race, though he had to wait for it to be confirmed after winning an appeal against exclusion for passing Matheus Leist under Safety Car conditions. Carlin successfully overturned Norris’s disqualification, though he was given a reprimand and two penalty points

The championship proved a hard-fought contest. Norris didn’t reach the podium at Donington, where Dan Ticktum took the points lead. Then Ricky Collard moved ahead at Thruxton despite Norris returning to the top step of the podium. Another win at Oulton Park brought him within seven points of Collard. But at Croft he was taken out one corner from victory by Ticktum. A furious Norris called it a “stupid move” by Ticktum, who took the chequered flag first but was disqualified.

Norris overhauled Collard’s 18-point championship lead by winning the first race at Rockingham then passing Ticktum for second in race three. Another win followed at Silverstone but race three was a bad-tempered affair: Norris tangled with Toby Sowery while Ticktum earned a one-year ban from racing after intentionally driving into Collard during a Safety Car period.

Victory in race one of the season finale at Brands Hatch put Norris on course for the title. Seventh in race two secured the title with one race remaining.

Norris also ventured abroad to gain experience of other grand prix tracks in foreign Formula Four series, racing a different chassis. At Monza in Italian F4 he qualified second but was involved in an incident which meant he started race two last. From there he climbed to fifth in race two, then took a podium finish in race three.

He raced in the German series too where he also drove for Mucke Motorsport. On his debut at Spa he took a fourth, a second and won race three. It “could hardly have gone any better”, he admitted afterwards. A trip to the Nurburgring yielded another second place, but at the Hockenheimring he was hospitalised after his biggest crash to date, with David Beckmann. This was a relief, as it was the weekend before his MSA F4 title-decider.

He ended the year in the BRDC Autumn F4 championship with HHC Motorsport but was beaten to title by Ben Barnicoat

2016: Toyota Racing Series, Formula Renault Eurocup and F3

His 2016 schedule was even more packed. He began the year racing in the winter Toyota Racing Series New Zealand, took on dual campaigns in the Formula Renault Eurocup and Northern European Cup, did most of the BRDC F3 series, entered a handful of Italian and German F4 rounds too and ended the year making his ‘real’ F3 debut.

This ambitious and expensive programme bore fruit: He scooped three championship titles and won the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award for young driver of the year.

His Toyota Racing Series campaign began with a pole-to-win run at Ruapuna. On a damp track in race three he pulled 18 seconds clear on slick tyres until the Safety Car came out, allowing those on treaded tyres to demote him to ninth (he also picked up a penalty). Two seconds and a win at Teretonga put him at the head of the points table.

He stayed ahead thanks to another win in race one at Hampton Downs, though the rest of his weekend was compromised. Contact in race two left him with suspension damage and a grid penalty for race three. The final round of the year was held at Manfeild where Norris clinched his first title of the year and added another win before heading back to Europe.

Lando Norris, Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup, Spa-Francorchamps, 2016
Norris won three championships in 2016
The Formula Renault Eurocup with Josef Kaufmann Racing was his main focus for 2016. He opened his account with a second and two wins in the triple-header at Motorland Aragon, passing Max Defourny for his first win and beginning a battle which would be fought across two championships over the rest of the year. A minor technical infringement in Monaco meant he lost his pole position and had to start the rain-lashed grand prix support event from the back of the grid, though as only half-points were awarded for the abbreviated race he lost little ground in the championship.

Norris won again at Monza to extend his points lead over Defourny, and prevailed in a thrilling tussle with his rival at the Red Bull Ring for another win. Norris prevailed over Defourny again in race two at Paul Ricard and clinched the title at Spa. Unusually this was a win-less weekend for Norris, though he’d already triumphed four times at the track in different categories that year. With the title settled it didn’t matter that Defourny took him out in race one at Estoril, and Norris ended year 53 points ahead of closest rival Dorian Boccolacci.

He took the NEC title too despite losing ground early in the year with a win-less opener at Monza and non-start in race one at Silverstone due to a gearbox problem. Norris then got into his stride, winning race two at Silverstone, again at the Hungaroring and taking a pair of wins at Spa to lead the points. He won the first race at Assen too but Defourny denied him a fourth straight win passing him at the chicane on the penultimate lap of race two.

Lando Norris, Carlin, European Formula Three, Hockenheimring, 2016
Norris impressed on his European F3 debut
Norris clinched the title in unsatisfying circumstances at the Hockenheimring when the first race was red-flagged. As in the Eurocup his title-clinching weekend was win-less, and he ended the year 41 points ahead of Defourny.

His other major obligation was a partial campaign in BRDC F3, though the 230bhp car was not the same as that used in other Formula Three series. Norris’s other commitments limited him to just 11 appearances in the 24-race series, though he won four times and amassed enough points to end the year eighth.

A step up to European F3 beckoned for 2017 and Norris got a head-start by entering the season finale at the Hockenheimring. He qualified for the final race within a tenth of a second of the pole sitter but he and fellow wildcard newcomer Ticktum were both required to start all three races from the pit lane.

The pair also went to the Macau Grand Prix with Carlin. A crash in the qualifying race meant Norris started the final from 26th though he rose to 11th at the flag.

2017: European Formula Three

Lando Norris, Carlin, European Formula Three, Spa-Francorchamps, 2017
A hard-fought F3 campaign in 2017 yielded another title
In 2017 his campaign was focused on the European Formula Three championship. The series had been dominated by Prema and Lance Stroll the year before, but according to Norris “Prema didn’t want me” after his test for them. “We did a test, it went pretty well, but we just didn’t sign the contract with them,” he told the FIA’s Auto magazine in 2017. He therefore continued with Carlin, who were making their full-time return to the championship.

Norris continued to produce his trademark impressive performances in qualifying, particularly in wet conditions. But his tendency to get away from the line poorly also remained. This presented more of a problem in F3, where overtaking was more difficult. Norris could only make up for some of this with his racecraft.

Nonetheless he won first time out at Silverstone and again at Monza. Each of the other races at those tracks were won by two more experienced rivals who proved his biggest threat in the championship fight: Motopark’s Joel Eriksson and Prema’s Callum Ilott, the latter a rival from his karting days.

Norris left Pau with a pair of poles but no wins. He was win-less at the Hungaroring too and fell to fourth in the championship. Next was the Norisring – familiar name, unfamiliar venue – where Norris moved his way forward from fourth to win. At Spa he again excelled, winning twice, and followed it up with pairs of wins at Zandvoort and the Nurburgring which gave him a clear lead in the points standings.

He could have wrapped the title up at the Red Bull ring but for some overzealous driving in the final race. While piling pressure on race leader Eriksson, Norris got too close and damaged his front wing. He was then hit by Ralf Aron, meaning Norris had to wait three weeks for the Hockenheim finale to take the title. He succeeded, ending the year with a commanding 71-point lead over Eriksson.

McLaren added Norris to their young driver roster in February and gave him his first official F1 test at the Hungaroring in August. Norris impressed immediately, setting the second-quickest time of the day. Three months later McLaren confirmed he would be their test and reserve driver for 2018.

2018: Formula Two

Norris moved up to F2 in 2018 and continued testing for McLaren. The team gave him his first run in an official practice session during the Belgian Grand Prix weekend.

That was followed by two further outings in practice sessions at the Belgian and Italian Grands Prix. His performances convinced the team to offer him a place in their driver line-up for 2019, as part of all-new pairing of Norris and Carlos Sainz Jnr.

Norris finished the Formula Two season second, runner-up to George Russell and just ahead of Alexander Albon. Having taken pole, fastest lap and won the first race of the season in Bahrain, he took eight further podiums but no other wins, poles or fastest laps in the category.

2019: Formula One

Norris made his debut at McLaren with relatively few expectations, after the team had suffered years of troubled form. However, his partnership there with Sainz seemed to re-energise the team and they finished fourth in the constructors’ title, with more than double the points haul of 2018.

Sainz out-scored Norris by nearly double, taking 96 of the team’s 145 points but Norris won the qualifying battle, starting races in front of his teammate eleven times over the season. Norris’ best result of the year came at the second race, in Bahrain, with a sixth-place finish.

2020: Formula One

The disruptions of coronavirus made Norris one of the stars of Formula One in 2020, when his online streaming became a popular panacea for motorsport fans deprived of racing. When the F1 season eventually restarted, he immediately saw on-track success by taking his first Formula One podium finish, becoming the youngest Briton ever to do so.

Norris also launched an esports and content brand in 2020, announcing himself as CEO of Team Quadrant two weeks before his 21st birthday.

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