With his recent success at McLaren, it’s no wonder Lando Norris has become one to watch out for on the F1 grid. But how did this young star make it where he is today?
July 16, 2021
Lando Norris may be one of the most loved drivers on the grid. Norris has found himself the stand-out driver of the season between his fantastic on-track performances and his large social media presence, but how did this F1 podium sitter and popular twitch streamer become who we know today?
Norris didn’t always want to be in F1. He actually started his sporting career in horse riding like his mother and younger sister Flo. He quickly became fascinated with MotoGP driving quad bikes and motorcycles, which his mom wasn’t a fan of as she felt it was too dangerous. While he moved away from motorcycles, Lando has kept his love for MotoGP, specifically Valentino Rossi. He often sports VR64 merch and was even inspired by Rossi when creating his first helmet, elements of which can be seen on his F1 helmet today. Lando and his older brother Oliver began karting at the same time. After the two watched a race at a local track, they asked people for spare karts so they could try it out immediately.
Lando and Oliver competed in the same karting championships, but unlike Lando, Oliver never took being a racing driver further than competitive karting. Now, he is CEO of an electric scooter company named Moose Scooters. He is also the managing director of Cool Performance, who makes racing simulators. Their simulators are made for Formula One drivers to train realistically. They are used by the likes of Alex Albon, Carlos Sainz, Jimmie Johnson, and Carlin Racing. While Oliver may not have pursued a motorsport career, it’s clear he has used that knowledge to be successful in other industries.
At age 7, Lando began karting competitively, and at his very first race, he got pole position. In 2010, he competed in the Super 1 National Comer Cadet Championship, where he placed 3rd. He finally won his first karting championship in 2012 when he competed in Formula Kart Stars Mini Max. The same year, Norris competed in two other championships, Copa Campeones Trophy KF3 and Super 1 National Rotax Mini Max Championship, where he finished 3rd and 2nd respectively. In the following year, he continued his impressive karting record when he competed in CIK-FIA International Super Cup KFJ, WSK Euro Series KFJ, and CIK-FIA European KF Junior Championship coming in 1st in all 3. In 2014 which was Lando’s last year in karting, he competed in CIK-FIA World Championship, in which he came 1st. Without a doubt, he has one of the most impressive karting careers of the F1 grid.
After karting, Lando began his very impressive single-seater career, starting with a 3rd place finish in the 2014 Kick Start Energy Ginetta Junior Championship. In 2015 he won the MSA Formula with Carlin, the first of many championships with the British team. The following year, he went on to win Formula Renault Eurocup and NEC and Toyota Racing Series New Zealand. He did a few one-off races in F3 and F2, but it wasn’t until 2017 that he entered the FIA F3 European Championship. The competition included the likes of Callum Ilott, Jake Hughes, and Mick Schumacher. He got 20 podiums for Carlin throughout the season and won the championship in his rookie year.
In 2018, Lando raced in FIA F2, where he infamously competed for the title with George Russell and Alex Albon. Unfortunately, he placed 2nd to George Russell, coming in 68 points behind the Mercedes junior. On his first weekend in the series, Norris got pole position and won the feature race. This was his only win of the season, but he was able to achieve 8 other podiums and consistently score in the points, only missing out on the top 10 twice. Russell, Norris, and Albon graduated to F1 in 2019. They quickly became fan favorites due to their close camaraderie. The three rookies were often hailed as the future of Formula 1, though only 2 are still currently driving in the series.
Many drivers have found their way into F1 through driver academies, and Norris is no different. In 2017, McLaren signed Lando to their academy when he was only 18 years old. Many academies like Alpine often neglect their juniors, choosing to bring back drivers who have left the grid, like Fernando Alonso, rather than promoting new talent. Luckily for Norris, he was signed to an academy with only two drivers and an open seat in 2019. When Lando joined the McLaren team, he was mentored by Alonso, which helped him massively in his development. McLaren truly nurtured Norris and shaped him into the talented driver he is today. It is fair to say the team has come a long way since Lando Norris started driving for him, and they no doubt have faith he will help them reclaim their glory.
In Formula 1, careers can be unpredictable. You can go from winning races to failing to score points in the span of a few months, but Norris has been consistently improving over the past 3 years. He scored points on 11 different occasions in his first season, ultimately finishing 11th in the championship. Although he didn’t beat his teammate Carlos Sainz or score a podium, he had a solid year, especially for a rookie. 2020 was a different story. With a delayed season, only 17 races, and new COVID restrictions, a drop in performance would’ve been understandable. Norris, however, did the complete opposite. At the first race of the season in Austria, after months of not being in an F1 car, Lando achieved his first F1 podium, becoming the 3rd youngest F1 podium sitter after Lance Stroll and Max Verstappen. Although Hamilton’s 5 second time penalty significantly helped him, he would’ve never been close enough to benefit from it without his raw speed. Even before race day, he showed pace, qualifying 7 tenths off pole in 4th. The rest of the year brought consistent results for the British driver, ending the season only 8 points behind his teammate.
2021 is proving to be Norris’ best season yet. In the past 9 races, he has achieved 3 podiums, scoring more points than in the entirety of the 2020 season. Perhaps his performance in Styria was the most impressive of the season so far. For the first time in his career, Lando lined up on the front row after being .048 seconds off pole position. He continued this high-level performance in the race when even after receiving a 5 second time penalty, he was able to beat out Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez for a podium position. If he continues to have performances like this, there is no doubt that people will start to call him a future world champion like his fellow 2019 rookie.
Lando is not only a significant presence on track but also on social media. In October of 2018. Norris started streaming on Twitch, but during the height of quarantine, he became a true star. He and other drivers like George Russell, Alex Albon, Charles Leclerc, and Nicholas Latifi streamed together, often playing the F1 game or doing virtual GPs for charity. Norris shaved his head on stream for charity during lockdown, later coined as “Baldo Norris.” Since gaining 970k twitch followers, Lando has created a gaming team called Quadrant in collaboration with Veloce. Along with members Aarava, Niran, Ria, Steve, and Ethan, they do everything from YouTube challenges to hosting a Discord server. Lando’s proximity to his fans has made a big impact on the size and importance of his platform.
Lando Norris has stepped up and used his platform to talk about the taboo subject of mental health in men’s sports. He isn’t afraid to speak out when he is struggling and has encouraged his fans to do the same. While talking to ESPN for mental health awareness week, he said, “I was getting messages from people saying how I’d impacted them and how me being me, how I’d changed their lives or, I guess as deep as saying, they were thinking about suicide and stuff like that, saying how I’d had an impact on changing that.” It is a breath of fresh air to see a driver so open and honest about who they are. Lando certainly is a driver for a new generation and will no doubt be around for years to come.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hi, I’m Chloe and I have a huge passion for motorsports. I want to work in media in the future and I love writing. My favourite drivers are Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo and my favourite team is McLaren. You can find me on Instagram @chloeharperdaly.
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