Lando Norris doubted whether he was good enough for Formula One but is now full of confidence – Maxsports
May 17, 2024

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Lando Norris doubted whether he was good enough for Formula One but is now full of confidence

Rarely can a second-place finish have propelled a driver to such prominence as that achieved by Lando Norris at the British Grand Prix.

His name was in lights because of his conquering wheel-to-wheel joust with no less than Lewis Hamilton, the battle of the young and the old providing a neat symmetry in the wake of Max Verstappen‘s near-inevitable triumph.

And when the 23-year-old McLaren driver took the stage at Silverstone’s fanzone some four hours later, he was taken aback by the sheer numbers present and the prolonged chanting of ‘Lando’ that marked his arrival as something more of a national treasure than he had started the day.

‘Speechless,’ was one description of Norris’s reaction.

His podium – the seventh of his career but his first at the British race – had an element of surprise to it. For he and his McLaren team endured a tough start to the season, their car fundamentally uncompetitive.

Lando Norris has been propelled to prominence after finishing second at the British Grand Prix

Lando Norris has been propelled to prominence after finishing second at the British Grand Prix

A change of direction, manifested in a major upgrade at Austria the week before, changed that. More tweaks are on the way. Optimism within the team is high, if controlled. As Norris acknowledged at Silverstone, the car is more dangerous at high speed than at slow, and the project remains a work in progress.

Difficult days lead to speculation. So there was plenty of chatter a few weeks ago about Norris looking around for a move, or being tapped up by suitors. Red Bull were mentioned. Denials all round.

Norris answered the conjecture by pointing out that he was contracted until the end of 2025 to the Woking team which nurtured him even prior to his debut four seasons ago as a promising 19-year-old. He is paid £20million a year under a deal signed in 2022, but his pain at his car being markedly off the pace was easy to discern no matter his dizzying salary.

McLaren chief executive Zak Brown, aware of the want-away rumours, says the situation over Norris’s future is simple. ‘Whoever he signs for next, he needs to believe he has a car he can win a world championship with,’ Brown told Mail Sport. ‘So our goal is to get a fast car.

‘Both our drivers, Lando and Oscar (Piastri, 22-year-old Australian rookie, who finished third at Silverstone) are doing great.

Norris previously doubted if he was good enough for F1 but he now has much confidence

Norris previously doubted if he was good enough for F1 but he now has much confidence

The 23-year-old's podium had an element of surprise to it but was fully deserved

The 23-year-old’s podium had an element of surprise to it but was fully deserved

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‘Drivers will be that much more important over the next few years as other teams draw level with Red Bull.

‘If you had two Sergio Perez’s at Red Bull, the season would be different: who would win the championship this year? But it’s Max, and then everyone else. That’s because Max is that good.’ Brown talks of creating the right culture to let Norris flourish where he is, and a new team principal in Andrea Stella, a new windtunnel and new composites factory are key bricks in the dream.

‘I think we can be one of five teams fighting for wins regularly by 2025,’ adds Brown, who was a bundle of excitement as Norris and Piastri qualified second and third and finished the race second and fourth.

As for golf-mad Norris, he is clearly maturing, his horizons broadening, his confidence out of the car rising.

It is difficult to imagine him saying now, as he did at his first race in Melbourne in 2019, that, having travelled to the other end of the world, he would stay in his hotel room staring at four walls. He was not interested in seeing St Kilda beach or travelling the Great Ocean Road.

The wheel-to-wheel joust between Norris and Hamilton proved to be an intriguing battle

The wheel-to-wheel joust between Norris and Hamilton proved to be an intriguing battle

Now the question is how far can Norris go in F1 as he continues to make a major impact

Now the question is how far can Norris go in F1 as he continues to make a major impact

Behind his always-apparent relaxed, boy-next-door persona, he has revealed of his Formula One years: ‘I struggled quite a bit with mental health.

‘I just didn’t know how to deal with it. I kept all of it inside and it really hurt my self-belief and self-confidence, which got to an all-time low.

‘I doubted myself: “Am I good enough to be in Formula One? Can I come back from this?”‘ Norris really asserted himself in 2021 and 2022, seeing off team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, prior to this season’s further burgeoning.

His story started in Bristol when he was born the second of four children to an English father, Adam, and Belgian mother, Cisca, which means he can speak a smattering of Flemish. His route as an ace karter was smoothed by family wealth. Adam, who retired from a successful pensions advice business in his mid-thirties, is reported to be worth more than £200million.

Lando left Somerset’s Millfield School with no GSCEs and took on a private tutor as he ripped through junior formulae, his focus singular.

Now the once reticent teenager, who fiddled nervously with his fingers through interviews, is a star of the Instagram and Netflix age, mobbed by fans and groupies. And nobody today, including himself, is asking if he’s good enough for F1, only how far he can go.

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