The 2017 European Formula 3 Champion Lando Norris has been officially announced as reserve and test driver for the McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team, just one week before his 18th birthday.
Norris became a member of the McLaren Driver Academy in February this year and completed the official in-season test at the Hungaroring in August, where he showed promising pace – second only to Scuderia Ferrari‘s Sebastian Vettel.
The 17-year old from Bristol has scored an incredible 99 podiums and 44 wins from 160 races since the start of 2015 – the year of his triumphant MSA Formula campaign.
Furthermore, Norris boasts title wins in the World Karting Championship, Toyota Racing Series and both Formula Renault Eurocup and the Northern European Cup.
Speaking in the wake of the announcement, Norris recognised the role as “another vital step” in his career as he looks to progress towards a full-time Formula 1 seat.
“No words can fully describe my feelings to be given this amazing opportunity by McLaren.” he said.
“My first introduction to the brand came with winning the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver Award last December and then within two months, I was selected on to its McLaren Young Driver programme.”
“Both have been an incredible experience. But to now get the chance as an official test and reserve driver in 2018 is another vital step towards my goal of one day racing in F1.”
Norris also showed his excitement about working with both McLaren senior drivers, two-times World Champion Fernando Alonso and fellow Academy graduate, Stoffel Vandoorne.
“It’s also a fantastic opportunity to become further integrated within the McLaren ‘family’ and that starts next week with a tyre test at Interlagos.”
“I’ll continue to work hard and my aim is to broaden my skills. I have two excellent tutors in Fernando [Alonso] and Stoffel [Vandoorne] and the intention is to help with the team’s efforts to get back to the front.”
Having swept to the Formula 3 title at the first time of asking, Norris confirmed that he would leave the series after the prestigious Macau Grand Prix this month, but does not know where his 2018 drive will be.
“My management team is working hard to finalise my own racing programme for 2018 which will be either Super Formula in Japan or Formula 2. In terms of Formula 3, I will sign off from this category in Macau the weekend after next.”
McLaren’s Executive Director Zac Brown lauded Norris’ talent, praising him as one of the hottest talents in single-seater racing.
“Lando is an outstanding young talent.” said Brown.
“Today’s announcement is thoroughly deserved, and underlines the incredible high regard in which we hold his abilities. He is undoubtedly carving himself a reputation as one of the very best up-and-coming single-seater drivers in the world.”
“His summer test for McLaren was also remarkably impressive, and was further proof that he is ready to step up and take on a role of this size, scope and responsibility. At McLaren, we are all extremely keen to help him achieve his goal of racing in Formula 1.”
Racing Director Eric Boullier – a man who oversaw Vandoorne’s transition into Formula 1 from the Academy – echoed Brown’s thoughts, believing the teenager is ready for the role and will learn a lot over the course of the next 12 months,
“We feel it’s very important to have a fully enrolled test and reserve driver within the team. Lando will attend grands prix and become a fully integrated member of the team.” stated Boullier.
“Lando is somebody who arrives with a very high level of ability, ambition and application; it is our job to develop and fine-tune his focus as we increase his understanding of how a Formula 1 team operates and how a modern grand prix car works.”
“There will be plenty of opportunity to observe, learn and participate throughout 2018, and we want to make sure Lando is fully prepared, if needed, to step into Fernando or Stoffel’s shoes at a moment’s notice.”