Zak Brown, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018

Rival teams were competing to sign Norris for 2019 – Brown

2019 F1 season

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McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown says rival teams were competing to sign Lando Norris for the 2019 F1 season.

The team announced yesterday Norris will replace Stoffel Vandoorne in their line-up for 2019. Brown confirmed to media including RaceFans that Toro Rosso was among the teams looking to sign their 18-year-old test driver.

“We knew he would have been snapped up by another team,” said Brown, who denied the competition for Norris’s signature pressured them into offering him a race deal.

“We were ultimately always on an around-the-summer-break timeline so we weren’t pressured by that [and] didn’t make a decision driven by that but we’re fully aware that if he wasn’t going to be driving for us it would be someone else.”

“I assume it would have been Toro Rosso,” Brown added. “I think [there was], based on the phone calls I got, more than one team interested in him.”

Brown is part of Norris’s management team but he denied that played a role in the decision to sign him.

“I’ve been looking after Lando before I started at McLaren, before he came to McLaren” said Brown, who joined the team at the end of 2016.

“It’s been very transparent from day one with the shareholders what we do. I’m not the first person to have that type of relationship in the sport or in business and ultimately what you do is you put good governance in place and so in this instance the driver decisions, group decisions go up to ExCom [Executive Committee].”

Brown said he “recused myself” from the contract negotiations “so I’m not conflicted in any sort of negotiation and it’s quite relaxed around here.”

“He’s here on his merit and if he wasn’t here he’d be in another Formula 1 team.”

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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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39 comments on “Rival teams were competing to sign Norris for 2019 – Brown”

  1. I think Lando is a good signing if I’m honest, they surely see the potential, and honestly how much worse could it be compared to Vandoorne? It is a no brainer in my opinion. And if he develops as they think he will it would be a decision praised in the future.

    What I question though, is the other signing, Sainz, that one just doesn’t feel right. Perez, Ocon even Raikkonen are better propositions for that seat.

    1. they surely see the potential, (). And if he develops as they think he will

      That’s exactly the problem, @johnmilk. IMO McLaren doesn’t need ‘potential’ nor be there to ‘develop a driver’.
      What McLaren needs is ‘experience’ and a driver who can ‘develop the car/package’.

      I assume that’s why you’re not sure about the Sainz.
      But I think Sainz would be a better option than Norris as a second driver next to an experienced one; but never this couple.
      Vandoorne has proven over the past two seasons what a driver with potential (He showed as much potential 2 years ago as Norris now) can do at current McLaren. And they had the benefit of having the most experienced and one the best drivers next to him.

      1. @coldfly

        I assume that’s why you’re not sure about the Sainz.

        Yes that is exactly it, plus I don’t think Sainz is extremely talented or experienced, overrated if you ask me.

        A duo of a rookie + an experienced driver seems fine to me, and as you pointed out that was what McLaren had for the last couple of years. The problem in that duo, is that Alonso was there for his career and the focus for him was not to help McLaren but instead to pursue various extra-curricular activities.

        1. Agreed. This duo is OK for the rebuilding stage. McLaren are pretty much a Torro-Rosso type team at the moment. Mediocre drivers are just the right fit for the sort of car they will be running in 2019.

      2. @coldfly I think 2 years ago Vandoorne vs Norris, Vandoorne was killing it compared to Norris no contest.

    2. @johnmilk but would McLaren be interesting for Perez, Ocon, Raikkonen?

      1. @m-bagattini Perez probably not, but Ocon and Raikkonen, if they find themselves without a seat…

        1. @johnmilk

          Ocon seems to be seatless right now. He might end up at Williams, but I’m sure Mclaren could have signed him if they wanted to.

          1. @todfod definitely. It surprises me that they didn’t. Ecen if they wanted to go with Lando, I think Ocon would be a better option than Sainz

    3. @johnmilk I mostly agree with that. Vandoorne was actually given plenty of support and opportunity to shine. He got two years to demonstrate something and he didn’t. He’s actually worse this year than in 2017. Don’t get me wrong, I still think Vandoorne is still a great driver, but for whatever reason it just didn’t work with McLaren. Whoever signs him up will probably score a big win. If I were Franz Tost I’d snatch him in a second.

      Regarding Sainz… I rated him very highly while he was with Verstappen. I really thought of them as similarly talented. But for some reason the last two years Sainz hasn’t kept up the upward trajectory. I like him but I too got a strange feeling when he was signed up. Not the least because it’s the first line up Mclaren has without a world champion since… I can’t even remember.

      1. @ajpennypacker for me was his time with Kvyat, always getting in front of each other.

        Crashing into Stroll and blaming him, just things like this. When you always point the finger at someone during your developing stages you aren’t going to learn. Something he always did and continuous on doing when he lacks pace compared to his teammate.

        Not the least because it’s the first line up Mclaren has without a world champion since… I can’t even remember

        It is the first time in their history that they have a duo that is still to achieve a win, a podium or a pole position

      2. Mclaren was without a WC from 1995 until 1998 when Häkkinen nails it for the first time… granted 1996 saw Mansell come back but wasn’t he a bit… overweight? When Coulthard arrives it had a couple of wins at Williams in his belt… but granted, no points, no wins and no WC’s… never…

  2. And the driver decision was taken by a consultant company ignoring the link between Brown and Norris… We all gonna believe that.

    I remain convinced that a one year loan at Toro Rosso was the best option (depends on Toro Rosso conditions), would have put him in a good environment to develop and would have shown that McLaren academy is better than RedBull, plus provide an extra year to weight Norris vs Vandoorne (vs Sainz).
    I don’t see much downside to all this.

    1. I suspect the ‘one year’ part of that was the hang-up, we heard plenty to indicate Red Bull wanted to have him for the future too, if at all @jeanrien, maybe even related to ‘and then you can have Key pronto’, but that wasn’t what McLaren wanted.

      1. Why would Red Bull be concerned about the future? They’ve got Verstappen and Gasly. F1 drivers seem to last until they’re forty-ish these days…

    2. at least he could improve in a faster car.

    3. I might be subject to a biassed opnion, as you might see from my login, but I can imagine Stoff actually WANTED to get out… Not too sure it was McLaren’s call. We’ll just have to wait and see, I guess.

    4. @jeanrien I think the connection to Brown is overblown as so many things are about Mclaren these days. It’s quite fashionable these days for F1 fans to hate on McLaren. I think the reality is that Lando Norris was a reasonable choice given Vandoorne’s under-performance for almost two years and the fact that he doesn’t seem to be improving. Lando earned that seat fair and square.

      Your alternative approach of having him go to Toro Rosso sounds like it could have worked, but I don’t see why Toro Rosso would have accepted terms in which Lando doesn’t stay if he performs well. In fact that’s the only reason why McLaren didn’t let him step in for Brendon Hartley earlier in the season. I think all of these shows how highly rated Lando is, but also the dire situation for the Red Bull Academy. The literally have no truly promising talent on their pipeline. Perhaps youngsters are realizing how bad Red Bull are at managing talent after they make it to F1 unless you’re a Sebastian Vettel or Max Verstappen.

  3. I can’t wait to watch him then. I was wondering if in our lifetime there was going to any other drivers like Jim Clark or Fangio.

  4. Johan Tolemans
    4th September 2018, 15:19

    “Not conflicted”… I wonder how many choked in their coffee reading that one. I can’t wait to see the total disaster next season.

      1. Hear, hear!

    1. If Brown was really concerned about McLaren, he wouldn’t be in the least concerned about his driver line-up today. Or tomorrow. Someone needs to get his priorities right it seems.

  5. Rival teams were competing to sign Norris for 2019 ? – you actually have “rival teams”?

    1. yeah, all the F2 teams…

      1. possible, but only if he does not win the F2.
        If you win you leave F2 and you should go to F1 ( at least that was the idea)

  6. Why have Ron Dennis, Jost Capito, Fernando Alonso and works partnership with Honda, when you can have Zak Brown, Gil de Ferran, Lando Norris and customer relationship with an engine slightly better than Honda.

    1. Man.. When you put it that way.. It makes me depressed to think about how bad a situation Mclaren find themselves in.

      No one left to blame other than the Middle Eastern investors for this mess.

    2. And we are not even sure that the engine is slightly better at the moment

  7. You must be kidding, right?
    I can number at least 3 F2 drivers who are consistently better than him.
    On race management, defending and attacking. Russell, Markelov, Albon.
    Not to mention Sette Camara’s terrible luck this season.
    Mr. Brown, care to explain what exactly has he done to deserve promotion?
    Just because he is Brit? Perhaps because you manage him?
    On-track performance mainly and results secondly talk otherwise.

  8. I’m just relieved they didn’t sign Perez. Sainz is a better choice out of what was left.

    1. Indeed. Perez’s career has suffered enough.

  9. I am curious what did they find in Norris? I watched all F2 races this season, and I see no reason at all why I would sign Norris. I’d sign Russell no question asked.
    Norris won a single race in F2. Other than that win, Norris never was even close to winning another race. Norris doesn’t know what to do in races, he can’t handle races well, he just destroys his tyres. I don’t see any racecraft from Norris as I saw him laps after laps after laps behind a slower racer when he was clearly faster. Norris has also made a few really stupid mistakes. I don’t see any speed from Norris, as he loses four qualifications in a row to his teammate Camara.
    What I see is a blown out of proportion hype around Norris who didn’t achieve anything this year. And everyone seem to ignore Russell, who has four races less experience in F2 than Norris, yet he accomplished much more in F2 than his overhyped rival.

    1. It’s all about Mclaren and Mercedes, not about the drivers at all. Russell is a Mercedes driver, his future is very predictable, there’s not much speculation around him. He’ll be in F1 at some point.

    2. The lack of OTT hype around Russell can probably be explained by the fact his manager doesn’t control a large portion of the motorsport media, whereas Norris is managed by the marketing-minded chairman of Motorsport Network (who also hired him to drive for McLaren).

      But that aside, I agree that Russell has been the stand-out driver this year, so it’s a huge shame he looks unlikely to get a seat in 2019. Don’t think Mercedes would release him to Sauber/Toro Rosso, so the only way I can see it happening is if Williams take two Mercedes-backed drivers. If they only take one, Ocon would probably be their first choice…

  10. Vandorne to STR. I think this was a win win for STR either they got Lando or vandorne is an option. Hardly seems to be a nice guy but it is probably the worst f1 driver on the grid , including stroll. Kviat and vandorne is the better option

    1. I have a feeling that Vandoorne will be at Toro Rosso as well. Red bull just doesn’t have any drivers in their program to fill the seat and Hartley is quite a poor driver.. As you mentioned, he’s probably as bad, if not worse than Stroll.

      Vandoorne has the added advantage of having worked with Honda, and has a couple of seasons of experience under his belt. Sure, he hasn’t been in great form over the last 9 races, but last year he’s shown that he’s a decent driver on his day, and that’s probably good enough for him to land that Toro Rosso seat for next year. Whether Vandoorne can redeem himself is another question.. But I think he’ll get a good shot at Toro Rosso.

      1. I think Albon have a shot since he’ll probable have enough super license points. I don’t know why they want Kvyat since they talk all the time about how important is for them to develop young drivers. The more logical pair would be Vandoorne/Albon. Sette Camara is another driver linked in the past with Red Bull, but since he had so many misfortunes I don’t think he can reach the 3th place and the super license points required.

      2. One can only hope Toro Rosso give Stoff a chance and then really shake things up by stealing Ocon from Merc since Merc seem to have relegated him to a worse position than he’s in now.

        Would make sense… Ocon/Vandoorne keeping the pressure on Gasly to perform.

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