RACE DEBRIEF

    Lando Norris and McLaren have committed to a long future together, with one of F1’s most highly-rated racers penning a new contract that will keep him at the team for the foreseeable future.

    This news was anticipated. I wrote before Christmas that my sources said Norris and McLaren were set to sign an extension that would extend his stay beyond the end of the 2025 season – because the partnership just works.

    READ MORE: Norris agrees new ‘extended multi-year’ contract with McLaren

    McLaren know that, in Norris, they have hot property and a future potential world champion. Norris knows, in McLaren, he has a team who can offer him the chance in the future to win races and fight for the title.

    Committing to a future together, then, makes sense. But with two years still to go on his existing deal, why did Norris choose to do it now?

    ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 26: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4)
    Norris' new contract extension keeps him at McLaren for the foreseeable future

    “I’m in a good position,” he says when speaking on a video call with select media. “It’s not something I want to worry about over the next few years. There’s always been these discussions going on, on our future, and I think it’s a very good time, especially when it’ll be coming to a couple of years when things start to get a bit more crazy with everyone else’s contracts and people potentially moving teams and things like that.

    “Going into 2026, and those years of the new regulations and everything, it’s not something I or the team want to be thinking of, or focusing on, or spending any time on in such an important couple of years. Yeah – simply because I can, I’m comfortable, I’m happy with where I am, the team are happy with me so it’s an easy decision.”

    READ MORE: Leclerc signs new Ferrari contract extension 'beyond 2024 season'

    Norris wanted to 'put rumours to bed'

    Norris is an emotional driver. We see that when he has successes. We see it more when he loses – the Briton is very hard on himself, so committed is he to getting the very best out of his impressive talent.

    That kind of personality sits well at a team like McLaren who, under the leadership of Zak Brown and Andrea Stella, are an operation that creates a family rather than corporate atmosphere.

    Norris has been able to get the very best out of himself in this environment. And the fact he points to wanting to make an early call on his future to give his colleagues working on the car and around the team one less worry shows how much teamwork, family and buying into that supportive culture means to him.

    SUZUKA, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 22: Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren prepares to drive in the
    Norris wanted to put rumours to bed surrounding his future with the team

    “Just the atmosphere, the mentality, the camaraderie that I think we have here has built up a lot over the years,” he says. “And I also just very much enjoy being part of all of that.”

    Norris’s steep trajectory has attracted admirers up and down the paddock, with his management team talking to several rivals about the future. Red Bull are believed to have given chase. But he says “nothing ever progressed” more than just chats, and those “shut down quite quickly”.

    He adds: “Then you have talks internally with Andrea and Zak, with whoever at McLaren, then you start talking about your own stuff and you do want to put some of these rumours to bed because it’s not a good [thing] that the team keeps seeing day in day out, so that’s why we’ve come to a decision so early on, and so quickly. Hopefully that does put those questions to bed nicely.”

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    Norris confident in McLaren's world championship potential

    After a painful start to the 2023 campaign, McLaren turned things around with a sensational in-season development curve, the papaya-clad squad going from a team struggling to get out of Q1 to a threat to the front row of the grid and a serial podium scorer. That turnaround “was a big part” of Norris’s decision.

    “With how things went and what I believe we have coming, and the confidence that I have in the team over the next two years, and going into a refresh in ’26 when so many things change, really there is not many other things that you can be guaranteed on or assured with any team,” he adds.

    “So at that same time, it comes back to where will I be happiest? And now, where am I most confident where I can achieve a World Championship? If you had asked me at the beginning of last year, maybe it wouldn’t have been McLaren. But now I think I am more confident than ever in saying it will be McLaren.”

    SINGAPORE, SINGAPORE - SEPTEMBER 17: Lando Norris of Great Britain and McLaren   during the drivers
    The Brit is determined to win a world championship with the team

    Loyalty is something that is clearly important to Norris. Growing up, he wanted to race because he loved it – and as he’s made his way up the ladder, being at McLaren gives him the surroundings to have that same feeling, that same passion for racing. That they gave him the chance to fulfil his dream, recruiting him to their junior programme, making him a reserve driver and then promoting him to a race seat, is something that Norris is very grateful for.

    “It’s a team I want to continue my story with, in terms of reaching my goal of winning races, and winning championships,” he says. “McLaren is a team I want to do it with. They are the ones who have brought me into F1, they have given me this opportunity so in some ways I feel like I also owe it to them, but I’m just very much part of the family and also very much enjoying where I am.

    “That’s always a big part of it. I’m part of the family, I’m excited to be part of that family – especially on the trajectory we are on, I think it’s been the most important factor in all of this.”

    READ MORE: Brown describes ‘confident’ mood at McLaren as they set sights on Red Bull for 2024

    Norris also knows that if he sticks with McLaren, he’ll have a chance to see the project through – and that will ultimately be more satisfying than going to a team that is already at the top.

    When he joined the team, they had aspirations of returning to the top of the pile. Step by step, they are getting there, and last year suggested they are on the precipice of helping Norris get his first win and then experiencing what it’s like to fight for a world title. And at 24, he has time on his side.

    “I want to be part of the story of turning things around and going from the beginning of my career and struggling, and going through those ups and downs, and sticking with the team,” he says. “I also enjoy it, that’s also a big factor for me. As much as I do want to just be in a team that’s the quickest one, there’s also that element of, I’m also here because I love racing and I love to have fun and enjoy all of that.”

    'Real champions, they seem to just improve year by year...'

    For McLaren, they have ticked off one of their priority business objectives, securing the services of one of F1’s brightest talents. They believe he has what it takes to make them consistent race winners and world champions again – and nailing him down to a longer contract, that runs until at least the end of 2026 but is understood to be longer with potential break clauses, is job done.

    “Lando definitely stands together with them [world champion quality drivers],” says Team Principal Andrea Stella. “It’s the same category, same kind of World Championship material, the underlying talent, the mindset, the work ethos, it’s all ready to go.

    “At the same time, when you think about champions, there’s a characteristic of champions – it’s they only get better. Real champions, they seem to just improve year by year, and I think that’s the case; that’s the case because they use their intelligence, their ethos, they get the best people around them, they do whatever it takes to get better and better because the sport gets only more and more competitive.

    END OF YEAR REPORT: McLaren enjoyed an incredible in-season turnaround and have high hopes for 2024

    “So definitely, we have all the raw material, which we saw already, when Lando was doing the Free Practice 1 with us, it was very evident in 2018. Then it kept growing; it’s there, we just need to keep growing year after year, which every champion does, but we are extremely happy and committed to Lando in this respect.”

    And with Oscar Piastri signed up until at least the end of 2026, they have a formidable line-up. Now it’s up to McLaren to make sure last year wasn’t a one-off, and deliver a car that is once again a step forward, taking Norris closer to realising his world champion potential.

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