FIA European Formula 3 champion Lando Norris could be in contention for a McLaren Renault Formula 1 Team reserve role next year, says their Race Director Eric Boullier.
The current reserve driver is 2009 Formula 1 champion Jenson Button, who filled in Fernando Alonso at the Monaco Grand Prix this year, but has said he’s focused on securing a full-time return in another category next year.
McLaren are planning to start talks with Button regarding whether the British veteran driver wants to continue on with the role, while the team has already announced they will be switching from Honda to Renault power in 2018.
Norris, who secured the European Formula 3 championship last weekend at the Hockenheimring, has tested with McLaren earlier in the season during the post-Hungarian Grand Prix test, impressing the paddock by posting the second fastest time behind Scuderia Ferrari‘s Sebastian Vettel.
Boullier, who spoke to Motorsport.com, said that Norris could be in the running to become McLaren’s reserve driver for 2018.
“It could be. [Norris] will have enough points to get a superlicence.” said Boullier. “I’ve been impressed, yes. The way also he stepped up after his F1 test was nice to see. He took a lot of confidence out of this F1 experience and now he just needs to manage it as well.”
“He’s in another level where he needs to manage the pressure of the championship, but also not doing more mistakes, being more exposed to the media, he needs to learn this.”
With the hype over Norris after a successful junior formula career, Boullier says he’ll continue to protect him as best he can from the media with Formula 1.
“I’m always the one who is going to minimise everything because I know how dangerous this paddock can be and the more exposed you are to F1 the more a young kid – I mean he is only 17 – can get distracted.”
“This is a danger and I have seen this so many times and you don’t want this to happen. The social media actually makes you even more exposed to this.”