‘There’s no point lying about it’ – Norris admits he had interest from rival teams before signing McLaren contract extension
Lando Norris was a driver in demand after a stellar 2021 campaign that yielded four podiums. But despite “little chats” with rival Formula 1 teams, the 22-year-old says he signed a big four-year extension with McLaren to send out a “strong message” that he is committed to staying put.
Norris continued his impressive rise as he outshone his more experienced team mate Daniel Ricciardo last year, ending the campaign sixth in the drivers’ championship, having secured his maiden pole position (and come agonisingly close to a first win) in Russia.
READ MORE: Norris agrees major contract extension to stay at McLaren until 2025
“There were opportunities that I think we knew would be coming up in the future with various teams,” said Norris. “This is a very strong message to put out [about] the faith we have in each other and how strongly I believe McLaren can recover still and get to the front in the next few years, even with those opportunities that could arise in one year, two years, three years’ time.”
Norris said discussions with other teams had prompted him to speak to McLaren about extending his contract with them.
“There were little chats here and there but that’s all and nothing went far,” he said. “As soon as something came up, that’s when I would then continue going to Andreas [Seidl, McLaren Team Principal] and have a little conversation about what our future holds and so on. There were little things, no point lying about it, there were little things here and there with other teams, but nothing that went far at all.”
When asked which teams he spoke to, Norris replied: “That’s something I can’t say. You’d probably be able to guess reasonably well.”
There would have been interest from the bigger teams in the coming years had Norris continued his impressive trajectory, and while the Briton said he had considered that when discussing such a long deal with McLaren, he ultimately felt the best move for him was to remain at the team he began working with back in 2017.
“I have to weigh in all the factors – it’s still my own career that I am focusing on,” he said. “I looked at all the best options for me… as a driver, the best for me as a person and in the longer term, what is the best thing for me. Of course, there will be opportunities for other drivers I am sure [to] maybe go to Red Bull or Mercedes. Who knows if I would have had those opportunities?
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“I think the fact that it’s known, or the fact I would have had those opportunities but I still chose to stay with McLaren, is the good thing about all of this – that I know those opportunities, or I am confident that those opportunities, would arise in the next few years.
“But the fact is, I still have chosen to commit to McLaren, so I think that’s quite a strong message, it’s quite a strong thing that this is still where I want to be, it’s where I want to achieve race wins and podiums and championships, and that’s all.
“It just shows it’s a very strong message,” Norris added. “I did weigh in all the factors for my own benefit and what I think could have come up in the next few years with drivers leaving and so on. But in the end, McLaren for me was still the best option, so that’s why I am most happy to be here and commit to my team.”
The 22-year-old’s deal keeps him at McLaren until at least the end of 2025 – two seasons beyond team mate Daniel Ricciardo’s arrangement – with team boss Seidl saying there are “no get-outs” for either side for the duration.
READ MORE: Two big questions for McLaren in 2022 – Can Ricciardo and Norris return their team to glory?
“The beauty of this new agreement we have in place is there’s no get-outs on both sides,” said Seidl, “which is simply the important message we wanted to give to the team as well, because that shows that we are in this together and that there’s a strong belief from both sides.
“From our side, in the talent Lando is. And at the same time from Lando’s side, in believing we can actually get there in these next few years.”
Norris and Ricciardo will reveal McLaren’s 2022-spec MCL36 on February 11.
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