McLaren’s Lando Norris is one of the most highly-rated drivers on the Formula 1 grid, and one of the most popular.
The British driver came onto the F1 scene in 2017, the year he won the Formula 3 title, when he joined McLaren as a junior driver and drove for them in the mid-season test in Hungary, going second-fastest on the second day.
He was made their official test and reserve driver the following year and took part in his first official race weekend at the Belgian Grand Prix, completing 26 laps in practice. He’d go on to participate in six further practice sessions over the course of the season.
That year, he also competed in Formula 2. While he couldn’t win the championship, being beaten by George Russell, he did end the season in P2 after claiming nine podiums and impressed many with his performances.
Given all of the above, it was no surprise when McLaren announced he’d be driving for them in F1 in 2019, partnering Carlos Sainz in a new-look lineup.
He started capturing people’s attention in the first qualifying session of the season, in which he P8 while his team-mate went out in Q1, and continued to do so at the next round in Bahrain, scoring the first points of his career as he finished P6 and third in the fan’s Driver of the Day vote as a result.
The Brit suffered some bad luck in terms of reliability after that but still finished inside the top 10 three more times in the first half of the season, making a steady start to life in F1. Then, things really picked up after the summer break.
In the final 10 races of the campaign, he scored points seven times and would have done so in Belgium too if not for an engine failure on the final lap. With him running in P5 at the time, that cost him 10 points and ultimately two places in the final standings.
He ended his rookie season in P11, 47 points behind Sainz, but things would have been much better if not for multiple mechanical problems. In terms of driving alone, it had been a very strong first year on the grid.
Most already considered him one of the biggest talents in the sport heading into 2020, but he confirmed that was the case in the first race of the season, claiming the first podium of his career in Austria thanks to a stunning final lap in which he closed the gap to Lewis Hamilton enough to ensure he’d move up to P3 when the Mercedes driver’s time-penalty was applied.
There were more last-lap heroics in round two, at the same circuit, when he pulled off three overtakes to go from P8 to P5. After finishing in the same position at his home race, he was P4 in the standings after four rounds and was widely seen as the driver of the season thus far.
That remained the case all year as he picked up points in all but three of the remaining 13 races, finishing inside the top five in Italy, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. What’s more, it was bad luck that stopped him from scoring at the others in the form of engine failures and racing incidents he wasn’t at fault for.
At the end of the season, he was P9 in the standings with 97 points, eight fewer than Sainz, with whom he had struck up a close friendship with, but he did win the qualifying head-to-head and often looked the stronger of the two.
The Spaniard left for Ferrari at the end of the year, and many expected Norris to struggle against the man who was replacing him, seven-time race winner Daniel Ricciardo, one of the most highly-rated drivers around. They were all wrong.
In pre-season, Norris had spoken of his desire to become the team leader now that Sainz had left, and he did just that from the off in 2021, finishing inside the top five in nine of the first 10 races and picking up three podiums along the way. At that point, he was P3 in the standings and 63 points ahead of Ricciardo.
The second half of the season wasn’t quite as strong, but he still delivered two stunning drives that so nearly gave him his first victory.
At the Italian Grand Prix, he finished just behind his team-mate in P2 to give McLaren their first 1-2 finish in 11 years and secure his best-ever result.
Then, a round later in Russia, he led for most of the race after claiming his first-ever pole position with one of the laps of the season in wet conditions.
However, when the rain returned on race day, he decided against pitting for wet-weather tyres and it ultimately cost him the win as conditions deteriorated. He ran wide, losing the lead to Hamilton, and then had to pit, finishing down in P7 as a result.
He wouldn’t finish any higher than that in the remaining rounds but did score points in each of them to end the year with a tally of 150 points. That was enough to give him P6 in the standings in a year in which he was one of the best drivers.
His performances earned him a new four-year contract at McLaren, ensuring he’d remain in the sport for years to come, and most likely at the top of it.