He can’t yet hold a driving licence, but this karting prodigy is set to impress in F3 & Formula Renault, says Jamie Howlett
Lando Norris may only be 16 but he has already won seven championships. This season he has taken a hat-trick of pole, fastest lap and victory in the opening race of the relaunched British Formula 3 championship, and finished on the podium
on his Eurocup Formula Renault debut.
Falling in love with motor racing at a young age, he received his first Bambino kart on his seventh birthday, won his first crown in Mini Max in Formula Kart Stars at the age of 12 and realised he could follow his dreams: “That’s when I thought ‘I need to start working hard if I want to be a Formula 1 driver’.”
During 2014, at the age of 14, he became history’s youngest world karting champion, displacing Lewis Hamilton by winning the CIK-FIA title.
That same year he took his first step out of karts, competing in the Ginetta Junior Championship, finishing third and taking the Rookie Cup with three victories. “Jumping from a car to a kart wasn’t too difficult, even though they were so different,” he says. “The racing was hard, though – both drivers who finished ahead of me did a whole year before. I took some wins and some poles, which was better than I thought I’d do in my first season in cars.
“A lot of drivers struggle with the transition from karts to cars, but I didn’t. I had a good team behind me – ADD Motorsports – they helped me with the switch.”
If there were any doubts about his abilities heading into the inaugural MSA Formula Championship, the youngster quickly dispelled them by taking eight victories en route to the title. He was in prime position to wrap up the series at Brands Hatch, but rather than playing it safe in the second race of the weekend he made a bold, brave move around the outside of Hawthorns to follow home rival Ricky Collard.
“I wanted to finish as well as possible,” he says. “It’s not too satisfying just to sit behind and do nothing. I wanted to have some fun. It was a pretty good move, I think.” This secured him the title with a race to spare.
There were two wins and two second places in four BRDC F4 Autumn Trophy races in November, and he continued this momentum into 2016, heading to New Zealand to compete in the Toyota Racing Series. “Going that far was quite different. I’ve never been anywhere like that before, so the experience was something cool and I enjoyed it a lot.” In the 15-race championship Lando beat rivals Pedro Piquet and GP2 racer Artem Markelov to the title. “To be honest the car wasn’t too different. I got to grips with it quite early. I was slightly disadvantaged compared to some who had been there before, and you can’t do any testing.”
He took six victories including the prestigious New Zealand Grand Prix (one of only two non-F1 events to carry the GP title), which he won from pole. “That was good, not just for me but for the whole team,” he says.
He’s tackling British F3 with Carlin in 2016, but focusing on Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 (against 2015 BRDC F4 champion Will Palmer, among others) with Josef Kaufman Racing.
His commitment to a full season in Eurocup means he will miss a couple of Formula 3 meetings. With three races per weekend this will effectively take him out of the title hunt in that series. He will get some respite, though: “I’m being home-schooled now and have cut down on studies, which makes my life easier,” he says. “It helps me not having to catch up on work all the time, I don’t have to go from one thing to another and be completely tired before I go racing.
I have a bit of time off.”
Given how his 2016 campaign has begun, that might not be good news for his rivals.
Career in brief
Born: 13/11/1999, Bristol, UK
2010 Super 1 Cadets 2012 Mini Max (1st); Super 1 Mini Max (2nd) 2013 winner, three int’l series 2014 CIK-FIA World – KF (1st); Euro KF(3rd); Ginetta Jnrs (3rd) 2015 MSA Formula (1st); BRDC F4 2016 Toyota Series (1st); BRDC British F3; Eurocup F Renault 2.0