Lando Norris, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya

Norris to make F1 practice debut for McLaren at Spa

2018 Belgian Grand Prix

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Lando Norris will make his Formula 1 debut in the first practice session for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, McLaren has announced.

The 18-year-old, who is currently second in the Formula Two series, will drive Fernando Alonso’s car during the 90-minute session on Friday.

The team’s sporting director Gil de Ferran said they will consider giving Norris further practice runs during the second half of the season.

“This is not only part of his ongoing development, but also the evaluation and performance evolution of the car,” said De Ferran. “We’ll be taking a strategic view race-by-race at where else this might be beneficial for us over the coming grands prix.”

McLaren has one place to fill in its driver line-up for the 2019 F1 season after confirming Carlos Sainz Jnr as Fernando Alonso’s replacement.

Norris joined McLaren’s young driver programme in 2017 after winning three different championship titles the year before. He is the reigning European Formula Three champion and has done four days testing for McLaren this year in the team’s MCL33.

McLaren’s decision to give Norris a run has added significance as the team has not previously taken advantage of the opportunity to run a test driver during a practice session.

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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 to make F1 practice debut for McLaren at Spa”

  1. When was the last time that a non-race driver was driving for Mclaren in an FP session of a GP weekend? I think that goes as far back as to 2005, or 2006 at the latest. Mclaren is one of those teams that has had the tendency always to use both of its full-time drivers for every single FP session without exception (with the others being Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull).

    1. Surely Vandoorne did some practice sessions?

      1. @hugh11 No, he didn’t. Only test day sessions, but not a race weekend practice session.

    2. I believe it must be the very last weekend of the 2005 season in China, where Pedro de la Rosa took the wheel of a third McLaren-Mercedes, so not substituting any of the regular drivers.

        1. So is it Merc, Ferrari and Red Bull who have not run a non-race driver in FP1?

  2. Norris seems like a really good prospect, but should McLaren really be signing drivers that finish runner up (as of right now) in F2? Of Norris and Vandoorne, I’d stick with Vandoorne if I were McLaren, but I believe that they should take Ocon on loan from Mercedes instead. Sure, they’ll be developing someone else’s driver, but it’s not as if top drivers are lining up for a McLaren drive now.

    1. Yeah, I’m not really sure about all this Ocon to McLaren stuff. Firstly their isn’t really a seat available at McLaren, they have that covered with Sainz and Vandoorne/Norris. If Stroll takes Ocons FI seat, surely it is more likely to be part of a driver swap with Williams which keeps him in the ‘Mercedes’ family and probably comes with an engine cost discount.

      Not that Ocon will be pleased with either outcome to be honest.

  3. I think the last straw that broke Alonso’s back was seeing the Honda in the Torro Rosso out perform the Renault powered Mclaren.

    1. That hasn’t happened?

      1. BHR… MON… HUN…? ? ?

        1. To be fair .. McLaren was running in 7th before the engine gave way and Gasly inherited the spot. Bahrain and Hungary.. I agree.. TR ?McL

          1. Engine giving way used to be the Honda’s trick when in the back of the McLaren. Must’ve narked Nando a bit that too.

  4. If at all possible, they should be having him run at least once at every practice session for the rest of the season.

    1. The Toro Rosso connection may be the key to the FP-1 Switch.

  5. Think they should just flog him to Toro Rosso… let them develop him, then if he turns out to be any good in F1, throw a contract at him the way Renault did to Ricciardo.

    If there’s one thing modern McLaren does worse than building cars, it’s developing young drivers.

  6. Looking forward to the mini Vandoorne-Norris race on Friday.

  7. Whereas I fear it is too early for Gasly to make the step up to Red Bull – where the pressures can ruin a good driver’s confidence – I back the idea of putting Norris into Alonso’s seat. The car is a dud at the moment and getting the kid in early and involving him in the two or three years needed to develop the car will give him a fantastic grounding for the day when McLaren will be competitive again.

    1. Or it could ruin his career as it seems to be doing with Vandoorne.

  8. Johan Tolemans
    21st August 2018, 15:35

    I feel sorry for the guy, he seems to be the most overhyped driver since a long time. This won’t end well.

  9. They need someone better than Norris. Although, for this car, they can have two Maldonados.

  10. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
    22nd August 2018, 10:07

    Norris put in some great times when he has been in an F1 car thus far however, I maintain that is down to the fact that he is tiny and weighs next to nothing. I personally don’t think he will shine when the driver weight is taken out of the equation in 2019 but would like to be proven wrong as more quick Brits can only be a good thing.

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