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Interview: Lando Norris ‘on track to greatness’

PUBLISHED: 15:01 15 June 2018

Lando Norris is the Formula 1 reserve driver for 2018 (c) James Gasperotti/Lando Norris

Lando Norris is the Formula 1 reserve driver for 2018 (c) James Gasperotti/Lando Norris

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Somerset toasted the success of Jenson Button when he was crowned king of the F1 track for 2009, so stand by because there is a new budding driver revving up – and he is from our county too

Lando Norris is from Glastonbury, which is, of course, already a big player on the international music planet. Now Lando is just a few laps away from putting his home town on the mighty international F1 map as well.

One of F1’s most successful racing teams is McLaren and they have confirmed that Lando will be the team’s official Formula 1 test and reserve driver for the 2018 season – not bad for a young man who was still only 17 when his appointment was announced.

“I’m so excited to be joining McLaren as test and reserve driver for 2018,” he says. “The past 12 months have been an incredible journey for me – I’ve enjoyed every single minute – and this is just an amazing way to launch another exciting year for 2018.

“I’m really looking forward to playing my part in the team and I will work harder than ever to learn and develop across the next year. I have two excellent teachers and team mates in Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne and I will do my best to help with the team’s efforts to get back to winning trophies. I’m still working hard to finalise my own racing programme for 2018 but it is looking good.”

Lando is the current Formula Three champion – the youngest ever winner of this title he is about to race in F1’s feeder series Formula Two as well as having F1 reserve duties. Is he really that good?

Zak Brown, McLaren Technology Group Executive Director, reveals: “Lando is an outstanding young talent. His promotion is thoroughly deserved, and underlines the incredible high regard in which we hold his abilities. By winning last year in Formula Renault, triumphing in the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver Award and then showing the speed and consistency needed to win the European F3 championship, he is undoubtedly carving himself a reputation as one of the very best up-and-coming single-seater drivers in the world.

“His summer test for McLaren was also remarkably impressive, and was further proof that he is ready to step up and take on a role of this size, scope and responsibility. At McLaren, we are all extremely keen to help him achieve his goal of racing in Formula 1.

Lando Norris is from Glastonbury in Somerset (c) James Gasperotti/Lando NorrisLando Norris is from Glastonbury in Somerset (c) James Gasperotti/Lando Norris

“I regard Lando as a fabulous prospect. He blew the doors off his rivals in not one but three highly competitive race series last year. 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 1 campaign at the same time as honing and improving his technical feedback capabilities.”

That view is endorsed by Eric Boullier, McLaren Racing Director, who adds: “We feel it’s very important to have a fully enrolled test and reserve driver within the team.

“Lando is somebody who arrives with a very high level of ability, ambition and application; it is our job to develop and fine-tune his focus as we increase his understanding of how a Formula 1 team operates and how a modern grand prix car works.

“There will be plenty of opportunity to observe, learn and participate throughout 2018, and we want to make sure Lando is fully prepared, if needed, to step into Fernando or Stoffel’s shoes at a moment’s notice.”

What is the secret of his success?

“I don’t really know except that perhaps I am more determined to win than most of the others,” says Lando. “It means a lot to me.”

That has been quite clear throughout his racing career so far. Lando won the World Karting Championship at the age of 14, a year younger than when Lewis Hamilton achieved the same feat.

Lando Norris at the FIA Formula 3 European Championship, Hockenheimring (c) Thomas Suer / suer.photoLando Norris at the FIA Formula 3 European Championship, Hockenheimring (c) Thomas Suer / suer.photo

“‘I don’t know Lewis,’ he says. “He was at the FIA awards at the end of last year so I saw him there, but we didn’t speak. I did speak to Sebastian Vettel, though. He made time for me and we spent five or 10 minutes chatting. It was kind of him to do that.

“My first sporting hero was Valentino Rossi, one of the greatest ever champions on motorbikes, a legend. I also see Ayrton Senna as one of the legends of the sport but I don’t aspire to be like anyone else. I support Lewis because I’m British and it’s great to see him winning because he is a very good driver and especially quick in qualifying. but I’d just like to be myself.

“Of course I would love to be fully into F1, win the British Grand prix at Silverstone and make my mark in the sport’s history but one step at a time, I am still really only at the beginning.”

It helps having a dad – Adam – who is a very successful businessman but Lando’s talent is not something you can buy. It is all about dedication.

Norris went to Millfield School for a number of years but he left school three years ago, when his racing and travelling commitments forced a big decision.

“I enjoyed having mates at school and sometimes I still miss them,” he says. “I also missed my GCSE exams but no regrets, it was pretty clear where I was going in terms of a career. It is up to me now to show that it was the correct decision. I have an older brother and two younger sisters so I am not short of company and my family and friends have always been very supportive.

“I hadn’t really thought about what it would mean for Somerset but it would be a real bonus to help with interest in the county. Everyone has heard of Glastonbury but perhaps they will think of more than great music if we can bring home a F1 trophy. That’s a long way off yet but I could not think of a better place to grow up in.

“Jenson Button is from this county and look how well he did. For me, Somerset is just a great county and I hope that I can do it proud.”

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