Lando Norris – not your everyday grand prix driver
Lando Norris is arguably not your everyday grand prix driver, certainly for one so young. What is abundantly clear about this mature-for-his years 19-year-old is that he eats, sleeps and breathes Formula 1.
Norris’ desire to immerse himself in all aspects of the sport stems not just from a desire to prove himself worthy of it and to be successful within it but, genuinely, because of his love and passion for it.
It is fair to suggest Norris has in no way been swept away on a wave of fame that follows when a young driver is thrust into the harsh spotlight that burns brightly at this level. Instead, he is grounded, level-headed, and his appetite to learn is exemplary. It has not been enough for Norris to step into the cockpit of his McLaren every other weekend of what has so far been a fine debut campaign.
In between races you will find Norris hunkered down in his Woking apartment hard at work – or should that be play – on a state-of-the-art multi-screen gaming simulator.
While Norris may appear to spend just as much time as many other teenagers on what is effectively a PlayStation or Xbox One on steroids, that is where all similarity ends. For Norris, it is akin to any businessman taking his work home with him, an extension of a working office day. Not for him is there the allure of pubs, clubs and girlfriends, as is the case for many of his age.
“Motor sport is my passion,” enthused Norris “It's what I love doing.
“I don't enjoy other sports, or going out and watching other sports. I don't enjoy watching football or going out drinking, or anything like that. None of that puts a smile on my face as much as driving.
“That's why I do so much of it. That's why I spend so much of my time when I'm home driving on the simulator, or designing my gear, my helmets. Everything is pretty much all to do with racing, being involved with it and, yes, trying to be a better driver than everyone else.”
Norris readily concedes he was “nothing special’ during his formative years in karting.
It was only when he changed from one karting manufacturer to another that the results started to follow, reconstructing his confidence and belief.
A meteoric rise through single-seaters followed, ultimately leading to the young Briton stepping into his seat at McLaren once occupied by two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso.
McLaren’s own belief in Norris’ burgeoning talents resulted in the Woking-based team rewarding him with an extension to his contract just before the British Grand Prix in mid-July to keep any circling predators at bay. Part of that faith stems from the effort they can see he is putting into making himself the best on the grid.
Norris is also not unafraid to talk himself up but do not mistake that for cockiness or bravado. Instead, it is a degree of self-confidence born from the fact he knows just how hard he is working. Remember, while some drivers are blessed with natural talent, others have to put blood, sweat and tears into their progression. Norris falls into that latter category.
“I think I probably work harder than a lot of drivers. Maybe not completely everyone, but the majority,” assessed Norris.
“All I think about, and all I do, is to do with racing. When I'm home, all I do is spend my time on my sim. A lot of people say it's just for fun but when I'm driving on the simulator I’m learning about different things, set-ups and whatever.
“I know that people are out drinking, having fun, doing whatever it is they like to do. When I'm on the sim, I'm learning about how to drive, about how to become a better driver.
“I spend more time involved in racing – not just driving – but involved in racing, trying to make myself a better driver than a lot of people.
“I think that's also one of the things, which has helped me become better than a lot of them, is the time and effort I've put into becoming a better driver compared to, I would say not everyone, but 99% of everyone else.”
Norris further set himself apart from other drivers when, before a wheel had barely turned in anger this season, he opted to spend time at the factory in a way that would not cross the minds of some of his now peers.
Across eight days Norris was effectively a work experience apprentice, learning about the behind-the-scenes methods of the many different departments that go into making up a race team. Norris wanted hands-on experience, to gain a greater understanding of what goes into the manufacturing process of the car he is now so proud to drive.
“A lot of it was introducing myself to the team, getting to know everyone a bit more, while at the same time there was the bonus of learning about what everyone does, how things work, how a Formula 1 car is built,” reflected Norris.
“I’m generally quite creative. I like design, artwork and everything like that. A lot of the stuff was pretty cool. Everyone loves the trim shop, the paint shop, the carbon and stuff.”
Norris left no-one out as he even saw the guys on the night shift. As you can appreciate, he immediately endeared himself to everyone in the team.
“They told me what I did doesn’t happen a lot but it was fun to do,” said Norris, who then outlined the bigger picture as to the changes that have occurred at McLaren in recent times and made the team one that is again respected rather than laughed at.
“I was told things have changed, that more of the bosses have come in and checked on how everything has been going, with more people being interested in what they do, how they do it.
“It's something they like and motivates them in some ways. They're not just in their bubble, in whatever room they are in just working away all of the time.
“It makes them care a bit more about what they do, makes them think about how much effort they’re putting into things and what it's going towards, which is towards me, and me then having to do a good job on track with all of these things they're making.
“It was definitely a good thing, not just for myself but also for them and then, having a driver come down and getting involved.”