At the tender age of 19, Norris had already an impressive CV before he’d reached Formula 1. As a karting champion, he quickly graduated through the junior ranks of motor sport and was a runner-up in Formula 2 in 2018 – his debut season.
McLaren’s boss Zak Brown had been a fan of Norris’s for a number of years and invited him to race for his sports car team alongside two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso in a 24-hour endurance race at Daytona in the USA. After he’d compared the lap times between Alonso and Norris, it reaffirmed his decision to give the youngster a Formula 1 seat.
Aged just 19, Norris made his debut at the 2019 Australian Grand Prix and remarkably outqualified his more experienced team-mate Carlos Sainz to line up eighth on the grid. In his second race he finished sixth to emphasise his burgeoning talent.
Norris’s impressive turn of speed and measured performances were to characterise his rookie year. A year later there were more outstanding drives, including two thrilling final laps in the twin Austrian races in 2020 and podiums in Imola, Monaco and Austria so far this season. The reward for Norris was confirmed prior to Monaco: a multi-year contract extension that will tie him with McLaren until at least the end of 2023.
Brown has known Norris since his championship-winning Formula Renault days in 2016 and speaks highly of the 21-year-old. He says that part of the youngster’s talent is down to his demeanour. For someone of his age, he isn’t overawed by the task at hand.
“Lando has come into Formula 1 with a real maturity,” says Brown. “I haven’t seen him make the rookie mistakes that a lot of others do by being over-zealous and over-confident. If he does make a mistake, he doesn’t try and fix it in the next corner.
“If we can give him a car capable of winning races and championships, I have no doubt that he is capable of achieving that,” says Brown.
And it’s not only on the real-world racetrack where the 21-year-old is quick. Having grown up racing video games, Norris has become known for his exploits in the virtual sphere. With a homemade simulator setup in his front room, he plays online for hours in his spare time practicing on circuits against some of the best competitors in the gaming world.
As no driver can practice on the Jeddah street circuit ahead of the first weekend it will host the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, the next best step is to learn driving the layout in the virtual world. If one driver is to have an advantage of knowing Jeddah ahead of the opposition, you can bet that will be Lando Norris…