McLaren-Renault have decided on their driver line-up for 2019, as 18-year old Lando Norris has signed a multi-year agreement with the British outfit.
This decision will see the youngster race alongside another bright talent in Carlos Sainz next season, in place of the departing Stoffel Vandoorne, who will be leaving the team at the end of this year.
Norris joined McLaren’s Young Driver Program in 2017 and went on to test the MCL33 F1 car during post-Hungarian GP tests earlier this year, followed by an actual Grand Prix weekend appearance when he drove in FP1 at both Spa and Monza. The British driver currently trails Mercedes junior George Russell in the F2 championship.
“We believe Lando is an exciting talent, full of potential, who we’ve very deliberately kept within the McLaren fold for exactly that reason,” stated McLaren Racing boss, Zak Brown.
“We already know he’s fast, he learns quickly, and has a mature head on his young shoulders. We see much potential for our future together. The investment we have made in his budding career with simulator development and seat-time in the car has been well-deserved, as he has continued to prove his abilities both behind the wheel and in his work with the engineering team.”
“In Lando and Carlos we have an impressive duo who, despite their relative youth, hold valuable experience in Formula 1 and with McLaren, and represent the next generation of McLaren drivers to lead the team forward.”
During his statement, Brown did not shy away from using the term “rebuild” when mentioning his team’s Formula 1 operation. While the team’s intention to get back to winning ways is admirable, it’s clear that such a leap in performance could take several years – hence the rebuilding process.
As for how Norris feels about the opportunity to drive for McLaren in 2019 and beyond, the youngster had this to say:
“To be announced as a race driver for McLaren is a dream come true. Although I’ve been part of the team for a while now, this is a special moment, one I could only hope would become reality. For the remainder of 2018, my focus remains firmly on the Formula 2 championship. My objective is to win the title before joining McLaren full-time, which will be tough, but I will fight as hard as I can for the remaining four races.”
“I’ll also be working closely with McLaren at every opportunity to learn as much as possible from the drivers, engineers and mechanics to give myself the best preparation ahead of next year.”
While it’s unlikely for a non-title competing team to feature team orders on the track, we reckon Sainz will be McLaren’s no.1 driver next year, as he’s got a lot more experience than his soon-to-be teammate.