Sometimes you’ll meet a Formula 1 fan who is completely invested in a team, regardless of driver, and they cheer for them over a lifetime. Other times, you meet a fan who is completely invested in the drivers (Paul Charsley would qualify as such) and they cheer for the driver regardless of which team they are on.
IF you are a McLaren fan, the you might be very happy that Lando Norris is driving for the team but if you are a Lando fan, the lack of pace int he McLaren car is causing frustration for you because you’re convinced he could be winning titles against Max Verstappen, George Russell and other top drivers in his generation.
It’s always difficult when your driver is languishing in a team that just isn’t up for the sharp end of the grid. Think Schumacher at Ferrari in 1996/97. Senna at Toleman. Max at Toro Rosso. Alonso at Renault/Alpine or Ferrari etc. You get my point.
The fact is, every driver has a shelf life and it is a narrow window in which to achieve what it is they want to achieve. Most drivers in F1 never achieve much more than making it to the F1 grid. The list of these drivers is too long to include here. So with limited time, the truly great drivers have to make moves in order to get them in the best possible car even when it seems like a poor decision initially.
Perhaps the best recent example would be Lewis Hamilton moving from McLaren to Mercedes at just the right moment. Schumacher leaving title-winning Benetton for Ferrari or Senna and the numerous moves to different teams to be in the best car—in fact, Fangio did that too. Both Max and Sebastian moved from Toro Rosso at the right time. Timing is everything.
I’ve wondered how drivers like Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz are doing at Ferrari and I’ve also wondered how Lando Norris is doing at McLaren for this very reason.
An article over at Motorsport suggests that Lando, for now, is patient enough to wait on McLaren and is happy in his role.
“At times, it’s tough because I’m a competitive guy and I want to win.
“Of course, at times you think what could you do in order to get into the position earlier.
“But also, I’m very comfortable with where I am right now. I have good confidence in the team… and that’s the most important thing for myself, to give myself that confidence, but also for the team to have it at the same time.”
There’s no doubt McLaren boss Zak Brown wants his team to build a car that can win races and titles but that’s much easier said than done against the likes of Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari. That being said, Lando is a talent that deserves to be in the fastest car and as of last year, he was far from that car.
Because Lando is an immense talent, recognized by many team, he would be highly desired so the only thing McLaren can do to keep such a talent is pay him more. At some point the money outweighs the desire to win championships and titles for some drivers—but not all drivers. There are some who are so competitive that the money is secondary to the equation.
I was curious if Lando was one of those drivers. In the end, drivers like Lando are young and they sign contracts with a time element they are willing to sacrifice for a certain amount of money and a certain level of promise and trust that the team will deliver a car capable of winning. Lando’s runs out in 2025 and we know Red Bull have spoken to him already.
For Zak, Lando is a franchise driver and the brand impact and marketing his team gets from Lando is worth a lot even if he isn’t winning races. So the team has to offer Lando the white glove treatment to try and make him completely absorbed with the McLaren DNA and culture in the hopes that he is so comfortable there, the thought of leaving makes less sense. Everyone will try that but most don’t succeed.
This also adds consideration elements to any team interested in the long-term life in F1. Mercedes, for example, love Lewis Hamilton but Lewis is on the backside of his career and he’s looking for another very expensive, long-term contract. While a F1 champion makes massive amounts of money, they begin to lose their top-flight salary potential with each year they get close to 40-year-old. It’s not because Lewis has lost his drive, passion or ability—he’s immensely talented—but it’s the long-term element that becomes a stark reality. Toto Wolff has to think about life after Lewis and a Lando George combination would be one of, if not the, best driver pairing for the future.
Aston Martin would do well to think about Lando and possibly Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, even George Russell—if Toto can’t shake the Lewis relationship and continuing long-term with the 7-time champ.
For McLaren, to lose Lando would be a real blow but it will be clear that the top teams will be fighting over the new generation of drivers like George Russell, Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz, Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen, Alex Albion, Pierre Gasly and others that all have terrific skills (some better than others).