Zak Brown: Lando Norris has become a ‘tough character’ in race combat

Lando Norris alongside Charles Leclerc. Sao Paulo November 2022. Credit: Alamy
Lando Norris alongside Charles Leclerc. Sao Paulo November 2022. Credit: Alamy

Zak Brown says Lando Norris has added a “tough” side to his race craft in the four years he has been racing for McLaren.

Norris was a Formula 1 rookie when promoted from the junior categories by McLaren in 2019 and has since become one of the most polished performers on the grid.

Since 2020, when he scored his first F1 podium finish in the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, the 23-year-old Briton has added five more top-three results to his resume and ended up sixth and seventh in the World Championship in the past two campaigns.

In doing so, Norris has developed significantly as a racer according to Brown, the McLaren CEO.

“If I look at Lando in [2019], he had the pace but probably didn’t have his elbows out enough,” said the 51-year-old American, quoted by F1i.com.

“And now he’s fair, but he’s a tough character when you’re racing.”

The progress Norris has made is of no surprise to Brown, who joined McLaren towards the end of 2016 and quickly came to the conclusion that the team’s academy prospect was an elite-level driver of the future.

“The goal was always to get him into Formula 1,” said Brown. “I guess you are surprised when it actually happens, but every step along the way gave me a reason to believe the next step he was going to be great.

“He was mega at everything and it has worked in Formula 1. I think what I’m happiest to see is not just his pure pace but how few mistakes he makes, and how strong his race craft is now.”

There were no guarantees, of course, that Norris would make the grade as successfully as he has done, having been rewarded with a new long-term contract by McLaren early in 2022.

“We’ve seen drivers that have been great along the way and then when they get to the top, you don’t know if it was them or the situation,” said the Californian.

“Jan Magnussen was mega at everything and then it didn’t quite work in F1. Jos Verstappen was mega at everything and didn’t quite work in Formula 1.”

Next year, Norris will be partnered by Oscar Piastri at McLaren after the team decided to bring in the rookie Australian in place of his elder compatriot Daniel Ricciardo following a tug-of-war with Alpine for his services.

“He’s very mature for his age,” said Brown of the 21-year-old from Melbourne. “I was very impressed with how he handled the summer drama, if you like.

“He’s obviously an immense talent. He’s not been racing for a year, so we need to get any of that race rustiness off him, which I’m sure we will in short order.

“A very focused individual, very technical, and looking forward to seeing him and Lando on the grid next year.”

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