McLaren has promoted its reserve driver Lando Norris to be Carlos Sainz Jr.’s teammate for the 2019 Formula 1 season. The 18-year-old has been signed on a multi-year agreement to replace Stoffel Vandoorne, whose departure from the Woking squad was announced earlier today.
“We’re very pleased to finally be able to reveal who will complete our driver line-up at McLaren for 2019,” McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said.
“We believe Lando is an exciting talent, full of potential, who we’ve very deliberately kept within the McLaren fold for exactly that reason.
“We already know he’s fast, he learns quickly, and has a mature head on his young shoulders. We see much potential for our future together. The investment we have made in his budding career with simulator development and seat-time in the car has been well-deserved, as he has continued to prove his abilities both behind the wheel and in his work with the engineering team.
“Lando is an integral part of our plan for rebuilding our Formula 1 operation for the future, and he has already developed a strong relationship with the team.
“In Lando and Carlos we have an impressive duo who, despite their relative youth, hold valuable experience in Formula 1 and with McLaren, and represent the next generation of McLaren drivers to lead the team forward. While our short-term focus is fixed on securing the best possible result for the remainder of the 2018 season, we’re also massively motivated by the opportunities that lie ahead.”
Norris was a relatively late addition to McLaren’s development program, signing the Somsert-born driver in 2017 as its test and simulator driver. By then, Norris had enjoyed a rapid rise through the junior ranks with championship titles in the Northern European Cup and Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 championships and the New Zealand Toyota Racing Series earned in 2016.
In 2017 he won the FIA European Formula 3 Championship for Carlin Motorsport at his first attempt and moved with the team to the FIA Formula 2 Championship in 2018. He currently lies second overall in the Drivers’ Championship standings behind Mercedes protégé George Russell.
He had several test outings for McLaren in 2017 and 2018, as well as driving in Friday practice at the previous Belgian and Italian Grands Prix.
“To be announced as a race driver for McLaren is a dream come true. Although I’ve been part of the team for a while now, this is a special moment, one I could only hope would become reality,” Norris said.
“I’d like to thank the whole team for this amazing opportunity and for believing in me. I’m also extremely grateful for the commitment McLaren has already shown in my development, allowing me to build my experience in a Formula 1 car in both testing and on Fridays during the past two race weekends.
“For the remainder of 2018, my focus remains firmly on the Formula 2 championship. My objective is to win the title before joining McLaren full-time, which will be tough, but I will fight as hard as I can for the remaining four races. I’ll also be working closely with McLaren at every opportunity to learn as much as possible from the drivers, engineers and mechanics to give myself the best preparation ahead of next year.”
Images via FIA Formula 2 Championship and McLaren