Lando Norris, who will become Britain’s youngest Formula 1 driver when the season gets underway in Australia in March, says he hopes he can react positively to the huge pressure that comes with driving for historic team McLaren.
The 19-year-old has huge boots to fill having been selected as the replacement for Spain’s two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who frustrated with the lack of progress at the once mighty outfit stepped away at the end of last season.
Lando and team-mate Spain’s Carlos Sainz — Belgian pilot Stoffel Vandoorne was let go — have a stiff challenge ahead of them. McLaren won the last of their eight constructors titles in 1998 and have finished as low as ninth in two of the last four championships.
“I have got a lot to live up to with the history of McLaren,” said Norris at the launch of the 2019 car on Thursday.
“There is a lot on my shoulders. I will try to make it a positive effect and hope to have a long career in Formula 1 being the age that I am,” he added.
Norris said that to return McLaren to their former glory he and 24-year-old Sainz — who has four years experience in Formula One — needed to work together.
“Together if we want to get back to winning races and winning championships with McLaren it is important that Carlos and I work together. Seeing the whole team and how had they have worked with the amount of hours they have put in is second to none. I am just excited to get going,” said Norris.
However, even with a vibrant new young pairing McLaren chief executive Zak Brown moved to disabuse the team’s fans that vastly improved results were around the corner.
“We are in a rebuilding process and it is going to be a journey,” he said.
Arguably McLaren’s most eye-catching new arrival is the one announced earlier in the week “a global partnership” with British American Tobacco (BAT). BAT pulled out of the sport in 2006 when a blanket ban was introduced on tobacco sponsorship.
However, they have taken advantage of renewing their relationship with the championship through promotional areas not covered by the ban.
“McLaren Applied Technologies will work with BAT on areas including battery technology and advanced materials. The two companies will share best practice, innovation knowhow and mutual experience,” a statement from the team read.
McLaren are the latest of the stables to unveil their new car this week, another fading British force Williams launched on Monday, with Renault, Red Bull and Mercedes also flaunting their wares on Tuesday and Wednesday.