McLaren handed Lando Norris two full days of testing at Hungaroring on Tuesday and Wednesday, the 18-year-old is clearly being a primed for a Formula 1 drive sooner rather than later, but all depends on what Fernando Alonso intends to go with his career beyond 2018.
Amid reports that Norris is being considered as a replacement for out of sorts Stoffel Vandoorne as soon as the Italian Grand Prix or at Singapore Grand Prix next month.
According to Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko, the youngster will be a free agent at the end of September if McLaren don’t guarantee him a Formula 1 drive for next season.
But Norris is keeping his feet firmly on the ground and is quite happy to focus on his Formula 2 programme, where he lies second in the championship, and dovetail that with the occasional outing for McLaren, as in Budapest, for the remainder of the season.
Speaking to reporters after his two-day stint in the MCL33, Norris said of the speculation surrounding his future, “It’s very difficult to say [what will happen], especially in the situation where we are now, in which nobody knows what Fernando wants to do next year.”
Earlier this season it seemed increasingly likely that Alonso would quit Formula 1 at the end of this season and take his career over the pond to Indycar but despite strong overtures from Andretti Autosport chief Michael Andretti this option has cooled substantially.
Why would Honda countenance powering Alonso, who trash talked them down throughout last season, in an Indycar programme? Afterall the Spaniard was a key infleunce in McLaren ditching Honda for a Renault customer deal.
Furthermore, the two times F1 World Champion is committed to the current World Endurance Championship (WEC) Superseason with Toyota – another bitter pill that Honda are unlikely to swallow.
Norris continued, “Being in a Formula 1 would be very good, but, at the same time, staying with McLaren maybe it would be better to do free practice sessions and make use of more opportunities to drive Formula 1.”
“For many drivers in my position, it is also good to learn about the car, about the team, about the direction they are going in. This would then put me in a better position to be ready in 2020, but that’s just one possibility. Things can happen in F1… ” added Norris.
McLaren are big believers in the young man’s talents, as are Toro Rosso who allegedly made an approach for the teenager to replace Brendon Hartley in the team earlier in the year when the New Zealander was struggling. But that came to nought as McLaren turned down a loan request for his services from the Red Bull-owned outfit.
For now, Norris is remaining loyal, “Ideally I’ll be with McLaren next year, that’s the perfect situation, but it’s not up to me to decide, it depends on the bosses and on Fernando.”