Lando Norris was a prodigious karting talent who has climbed rapidly through the junior categories with success at every level. Still a teenager, he made an impressive Formula 1 graduation with McLaren in 2019. Since then he has proven his worth and scored multiple podiums as the team fights back to become a top F1 outfit once again.
Early racing career
Norris began racing karts when seven years old and that period of his career culminated in victory in the 2014 KF1 World Championship, a title decided by a one-off race at Essay. He also made his car racing debut that year when competing in Ginetta Juniors – winning four times and third in the standings for HHC Motorsport.
He began a long association with Carlin in 2015 when he switched to the new MSA Formula single-seater series. A double victory in the opening weekend at Brands Hatch set the tone and Norris scored another six wins as he beat Ricky Collard to that inaugural title. Occasional outings in Formula 4 delivered further victories in both Britain and Germany.
Toyota Racing Series and Formula Renault 2.0
Keen to race as much as possible, Norris travelled to New Zealand at the start of 2016 to win the Toyota Racing Series. His six victories for M2 Motorsport included the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild and he returned to Europe to dominate Formula Renault 2.0. Norris guided Josef Kaufmann’s Tatuus 2000-Renault to 11 victories as he clinched both the Eurocup and NEC titles. He also won four times during a partial BRDC Formula 3 campaign with Carlin and ended the year by being named as the McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner.
FIA Formula 3 Champion
Norris joined McLaren’s junior driver programme as part of his prize, working in the team’s simulator and enjoying an impressive F1 test at the Hungaroring. He raced for Carlin in the 2017 European F3 Championship and confirmed his standing as one of the sport’s leading talents for the future with a championship-winning campaign that belied his rookie status. He recovered from initial poor starts to win nine times and secure the title with two races of the final weekend to spare before finishing second at Macau.
FIA Formula 2 runner-up
Norris went head-to-head with future F1 Brits George Russell and Alexander Albon for the F2 title in 2018. The Carlin driver took the opening win of the season in Bahrain but wouldn’t stand on the top step again throughout the rest of the season.
Eight further podiums cemented his place as one of the top prospects in the series and took the title battle in the latter half of the season, but it was Russell that took the honours as champion ahead of all three driver’s promotion to F1 the following season.
F1 with McLaren
Partnering Carlos Sainz in an all-new line-up at McLaren following the departure of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, Norris had an impressive rookie season, scoring points on 11 occassions. His points alongside the more experienced Sainz moved McLaren to fourth in the constructors’ standings, the team’s highest finish since 2013.
The team went one better in 2020 and Norris took another step forward in performance. On F1’s return following the delay to the season arrising due to Covid-19, Norris scored a maiden podium in Austria, finishing in third position. A final lap charge and fastest lap was enough to edge ahead of Lewis Hamiton who’d collected a time penalty for contact with Albon earlier in the race.
A regular points finisher for the remainder of the season, McLaren ended the year as best of the rest behind Mercedes and Red Bull in the championship in third. For 2021, the highly-rated Daniel Ricciardo arrived as a new team-mate but the young Brit had the measure of his grand prix-wining partner. Norris took a further four podiums during the season and his form was rewarded early in the season with a new multi-year contract extension with the team to tie him down for the next few seasons.
He cruelly missed out on a maiden victory during the Russian Grand Prix after a late-race shower brought chaos as he was leading. Having apparently seen off the worst of the threat from Hamilton behind, Norris was set to take the win until rain split strategies and many opted to pit for intermediates, while the McLaren remained out on slicks, it turned out to be the wrong call and he eventually spun off the circuit and was forced to crawl back to the pits for inters. Norris finished the season sixth in the championship standings, 4.5 behind former team-mate Sainz.
Success in the face of failure
Underperformance was the key obstacle in Norris’ 2022 campaign, with McLaren failing to adapt to the latest change in the technical regulations. Nevertheless, the Briton still secured 17 top ten finishes and even scored a surprise podium at Imola – the only driver outside of Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes to do so. Other notable performances included a fifth place finish in Australia and a fourth place finish in Singapore.
Norris’ continuous outperformance of the car meant his veteran teammate Daniel Ricciardo was made to look inferior, trailing the Briton by an 85-point margin in the drivers’ standings by the end of the season.
Consequently, Norris was offered a major contract extension to stay with McLaren until 2025, whilst Ricciardo was dropped from his seat in favor of fellow Aussie Oscar Piastri.