Following the news that Stoffel Vandoorne has been let go, McLaren has immediately announced his replacement – and it’s the team’s junior driver and current Formula 2 championship challenger Lando Norris.
It’s the culmination of a rapid rise through the junior formulae for the 18-year-old – having won a couple of Formula Renault championships in 2016, he won the European F3 championship at the first attempt the following year and has been a contender for the F2 title this season. Lando said of the news:
“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.
“I’d like to thank the whole team for this amazing opportunity and for believing in me. I’m also extremely grateful for the commitment McLaren has already shown in my development, allowing me to build my experience in a Formula 1 car in both testing and on Fridays during the past two race weekends.”
“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.”
Norris has already had a couple of FP1s this year in Spa and Monza and has tested extensively for the team over the last couple of years. Zak Brown added:
“We believe Lando is an exciting talent, full of potential, who we’ve very deliberately kept within the McLaren fold for exactly that reason.
“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.
“Lando is an integral part of our plan for rebuilding our Formula 1 operation for the future, and he has already developed a strong relationship with the team.”
In Norris and Sainz, McLaren has a pretty tasty driver line-up for next year. It also has a bit of a knock-on effect on the driver market: Norris was in the frame for a Toro Rosso seat – does him joining McLaren give a bit of hope for Vandoorne to go there instead?