McLaren’s new recruit Lando Norris doubts he will be in a position to win races over the next two years and has played down comparisons with four-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.
The 18-year-old will join the team as Carlos Sainz’s teammate next year, becoming the first British rookie to drive for McLaren since Hamilton in 2007. The success of both Hamilton and Norris in junior categories before making their debuts at McLaren has invited inevitable comparions, but Norris said there is a big difference between his first season with the British team and Hamilton’s.
“I think being compared to someone who could be about to win five world championships — he’s won four already — I don’t think it’s a bad thing in any way,” Norris said. “As long as you’re getting compared on the good stats and not the bad stats.
“But I think it’s still very different. He came into McLaren when they were doing extremely well, and I’ve joined when they’re going through a pretty tricky time. Things over the last few years have basically got a bit lost. I think with my opportunity of driving next year, as well as Carlos, it’s a fresh start and what the team needs to get back to where they need to be.”
McLaren’s decline has left it firmly in Formula One’s midfield in recent years and the team has not scored a podium since 2014. Norris said his main task would be to beat new teammate Sainz — who will join the team from Renault for 2019 — as well as helping McLaren return to the front of the grid.
“Rule number one is to beat your teammate,” Norris said. “Apart from that, it’s going to be a tough year for McLaren, we are not going to be winning. We are probably not going to be competing against Ferrari or Mercedes but I would like to say we can make a step forward from where we are now basically.
“A lot of it is going to be progressing throughout the year. Like I said, developing the car for the next few years so we can be even better and start challenging for podiums and whatever. There’s nothing now, it will be much easier to say something when we get into pre-season testing and we know where we are as a team. Until then it’s just being able to improve from where we are now.”
The last three young drivers to be given a chance at McLaren — Sergio Perez, Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne — have lasted two seasons or less at the team before being booted out. But Norris is confident he is different and can be part of McLaren’s resurgence over the medium- to long-term.
“Of course I want to say I’m better than the other drivers, but I have something to prove, whether it’s something against Carlos or just in general over the next year. It’s too hard to say what’s going to happen. I think as long as I do a good job and put in all my effort to proving that I’m worth it, then everything should be fine.
“They want to help me develop into however they need me to be, pretty much. Every driver is different, so I just hope whatever I do is going to be good enough, because it’s not that I just want to be with McLaren. I want to win with McLaren. I don’t think it’s going to be in the next two years, I think it’s more of a longer project than just being with the team for one year.”