Norris joins McLaren young driver programme

2017 F1 season

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Lando Norris, the highly-rated young British talent who won three championships last year, has joined McLaren’s young driver development programme for 2017.

Norris, 17, claimed the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup and NEC titles last year in addition to the New Zealand-based Toyota Racing Series.

He also won the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award, earning him the chance to test a McLaren F1 car. Norris will race in the European Formula Three championship this year.

Stoffel Vandoorne will become the latest graduate of McLaren’s young driver programme to start a full season for the team in 2017.

Nyck de Vries remains a part of the scheme alongside Nobuharu Matsushita. The latter will continue in GP2 this year while De Vries is yet to announce his plans.

“It’s a grand testament to the success of our Programme that first Kevin [Magnussen] and now Stoffel have succeeded in their ambitions to become grand prix drivers.” said racing director Eric Boullier.

“And, although the Programme is a relatively recent creation, in truth we’ve been nurturing and developing the careers of up-and-coming drivers for many decades.”

McLaren executive director Zak Brown, who has worked with Norris previously, described him as “a fabulous prospect”

“He blew the doors off his rivals in not one but three highly competitive race series last year, then capped that by establishing himself as the clear winner of the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award.

It was an impressively mature performance, and we’ll be developing him this year as part of our simulator team, whereby he’ll be contributing directly and importantly to our Formula One campaign at the same time as honing and improving his technical feedback capabilities.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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22 comments on “Norris joins McLaren young driver programme”

  1. Hopefully it works for him like it did for Vandoorne. Very talented from what I’ve seen, one of the few young Brits who I can see making it high up in the sport, our next big thing once Hamilton retires I think.

    1. Good to see a new top tier British talent! F1 needs the British fans. Since Button and Hamilton came into F1 we have seen lesser talents like Davidson and the sad likes Chilton and Palmer. If Hamilton retires Norris needs to fill that void or Silverstone will go bust in a season or two.

  2. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
    22nd February 2017, 13:24

    This kid is a massive talent. Would not be surprised at all to see him lined up as Nando’s replacement with a few FP1s by the end of the year.

    Do his 3 titles last year (plus Euro F3 title this year) give him enough points to make the Max jump to F1 next year?

    1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
      22nd February 2017, 13:34

      Euro F3 pays 40 for the win anyway, so yes it would.

      As it stands I put him on 25 (5 for Karts, 10 for eurocup, 10 for NEC), meaning third or better this season puts him in superlicence range.

    2. I’m wondering if we ever get to see Lando and Nando as teammates :P

  3. Interested to see what he can do in F3. If he wins that title then I think he would be ready for Alonso’s seat whenever he retires or moves on. No pussyfooting around like they did with Stoffel.

  4. this kid shows every sign of being THE talent of his generation. doesnt seem to be anything he cant drive fast

  5. In my opinion McLaren need some sort of B-team for their program to work properly. It’s fine to a degree now while they’re trailing in the middle, but when they’re back at the front, putting inexperienced drivers in isn’t the best thing. Verstappen had a year of being a rookie further back, clearly a good thing.

    Magnussen didn’t seem to be ready for the top seat when he drove in 2014.

    I don’t mean necessarily having two F1 teams, but using smaller teams (Sauber, previously Manor) like Ferrari and Mercedes is a good idea. That way when, say, Button retired, Vandoorne would have already had a year of experience.

    1. They could have bought Manor for a few million I recon.

      I think F1 needs to do like MotoGP and have manufactorers/works teams, let’s say 6 teams, each with a ‘satelite’ or ‘junior’ team that runs customer chassis’ to make it competative at an affordable cost. This way we’d have a full grid of financially healthy teams and we really get to know the talent that will move up to the big teams in a few years.

    2. @strontium hit the nail on the head about McLaren needing a B-team, or something along those lines. They can claim that their programme is a success, but the truth is that their lack of additional spots on the grid (as enjoyed by Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari) held Vandoorne back far, far too long.

      I had him down as ready for the 2014 season, and I think Red Bull at least would have shoved him into Toro Rosso at the time if he’d been theirs. Other people might have thought he needed a season of GP2 first. Either way, it’s a delay of either two or three seasons, and for a talent like him I think that’s unforgivable.

    3. Looking at the last few years performances, I think Mclaren need an “A” team. Mclaren itself is the “B” team

      Anyways, this kid seems very good. I think with the Red Bull program kind of full (Daniel, Max and Carlos all contracted for 2+ years); it makes sense for him to go for Mclaren where a spot will open up soon (Alonso retiring). Plus, Honda could be supplying an extra team in 2018 as well opening up slots for drivers like him.

      1. Looking at the last few years performances, I think Mclaren need an “A” team

        Comment of the day!

    4. Not just the drivers, a B-team would help massively on the engine front. Honda can’t realistically expect to catch up to Mercedes with a fraction of the testing mileage.

      Would love to see McLaren support an F1 entry for their buddies at ART.

  6. Whenever I see him iRacing (online simulator) he always seems to be winning!

    I took him out at Silverstone once in practice for Formula Renault, I did apologise on Twitter and he accepted!

  7. Lando Norris or George Russell?

  8. Lando has certainly been super impressive thus far in his career, but he simply hasn’t come up against the calibre of competition yet to properly validate his abilities. He certainly faced few truly credible rivals in Eurocup, and he will be doing well if he can match the clear pre-season favourite Callum Ilott in F3 now that he’s driving for the all-conquering Prema Powerteam.

    Thinking about it, between Hamilton in F1, Ilott in F3, ART graduates Aitken and Russell in GP3 and a sophomore GP2 campaign for the eternally overlooked Oliver Rowland with DAMS, British drivers could well claim all major international single seater titles in 2017! Formula E doesn’t count, does it…?

    On another note entirely, I guess the fact that de Vries is staying with McLaren means he’s missed out on Gianmaria Bruni’s Ferrari GT drive? Molina was a better choice anyway…

    1. Bruni’s seat went to Alessandro Pier Guidi @william-brierty

      1. @craig-o – Sorry I missed that. I guess the Vallelunga test was a smokescreen and that Ferrari had already nominated Pier Guidi, he was the obvious candidate. It looks like Molina, Riberas and de Vries were actually being assessed for IMSA and Blancpain seats. I can’t say I agree with Pier Guidi’s appointment – as Calado, Bird, Ticknell and Rosenqvist attest, fast single seater drivers tend to make the fastest GT drivers. Molina, having shown some speed in single seaters and in the habit of putting in pole laps in the DTM, would have been a great choice.

        1. @william-brierty Probably a continuity thing more than anything. He raced that car at Le Mans last year as the third driver.

  9. I’m simply amazed that nobody picked him up sooner.

  10. He blew the doors off his rivals in not one but three highly competitive race series last year…

    Not doing the lad justice! I count four series. Not a champion in British F3 on account of only a limited number of starts due to clashes with formula Renault, but when he did race, he wiped the floor with them! He would have easily taken the title in a full campaign.

  11. Good to see Mclaren are signing massive talents in Vandoorne and now Norris. It’s crazy if you think about the fact that they still have a driver many consider to be the best on the grid, and the most highly rated rookie for their 2017 season despite being lower midfield contenders over the past 2 seasons. It’s about time they give these talents something other than a back marker machine.

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