LONDON: Formula One team McLaren signed rising star Lando Norris to a four-year contract extension that locks the young British driver in through the 2025 season.
The 22-year-old Norris is entering his fourth full season of F1 competition. His progression has been steady — improving from 11th in the standings in 2019 as a rookie to sixth overall last season, highlighted by four podium finishes, his first career pole and first 31 laps led of his F1 career.
Zak Brown, head of McLaren Racing, believes Norris can someday be an F1 champion.
McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl echoed that sentiment in Wednesday's announcement, noting the team’s “belief and confidence" in Norris.
“It is also a strong sign of trust and commitment from Lando in us as a team and our journey to world championship contention," he added. "Lando has shown impressive growth as a Formula 1 driver over the past four years and has been an instrumental part of the team’s momentum and performance trajectory.”
Norris and Daniel Ricciardo will be teammates this season for a second consecutive year.
Norris has been part of the McLaren program since he was 17 and impressed the organization in a test Norris earned for winning the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver Award. He was McLaren's test and reserve driver in 2017 and 2018, then was promoted full-time to F1 in 2019 at 19 years old. It made him the 12th teenager to start an F1 race.
“Teams are about people, and I love the people and feel at home at McLaren. I have grown up in this team and I’m part of this journey we’re all on,” Norris said.
Norris has also built an enormous following — especially among teenage girls who often greet him as if he's a pop star — and his charm has helped McLaren re-establish itself as one of F1's most respected teams.
Norris finished second in fan voting for most popular driver behind champion Max Verstappen in a global study commissioned by Motorsport Network in partnership with F1 and Nielsen Sports. Norris was listed on 40% of the fan ballots as ranking among their top three favorite drivers. His popularity among female fans was unrivaled in the survey; Norris was on 57% of ballots completed by women.
Norris lost out to Lewis Hamilton as favorite driver from the United Kingdom, but Norris was handily the favorite driver of fans 24 and younger. Ricciardo was fourth in favorite driver voting and he and Norris helped McLaren win the fan vote for favorite team. McLaren won the 16-to-24 age group with 40% of the vote.
“Last season was another great step, both in my career and the team’s performance, and I see and feel all the work, investment, and commitment for the team to be in a position to challenge for wins and titles in the future," Norris said. "This all gives me huge confidence looking forward, so it was a natural decision to extend our relationship for the next few years.”
The extension announced Wednesday makes clear he's part of McLaren's long-term plan to return to to the top of the podium. McLaren's last driver championship was won by Hamilton in 2008, and its last constructor's title was in 1998.
Ricciardo led Norris in a 1-2 sweep at last year's Italian Grand Prix to give McLaren its first F1 victory since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix.
“We are still on our journey to fight at the front and Lando is a key element of our plan,” Seidl said. “So to lock him into place, alongside Daniel and our senior leadership, gives us stability and continuity as we build towards our ultimate shared goal of world championships.”