Lando Norris signs extension with McLaren F1 for ‘2022 and beyond’

Norris McLaren F1
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Lando Norris, 21, has signed a multi-year extension with McLaren F1 that cements the team’s driver lineup for the near future. The announcement comes at the one-year anniversary of McLaren announcing a multi-year deal with Daniel Ricciardo to move from Renault.

“My commitment to McLaren is clear: my goal is to win races and become Formula 1 World Champion,” Norris said in a release.

Norris joined McLaren as one of their two fulltime drivers in 2019 and in 42 career starts with them, he has two podium finishes, both third-place finishes. Norris stood on the podium last year in the season-opening Grand Prix of Austria. He repeated the feat in the second race of this season at Imola.

The length of the extension was not announced, only that is is a multi-year agreement that includes “2022 and beyond.”

In addition to his podium at Imola, Norris has two other top-fives in four races run so far this season. He currently sits fourth in the Drivers Championship.

“I’m really pleased to have extended my relationship with McLaren from 2022,” Norris said. “Having been with the team for almost five years, I feel very much part of the family here and I couldn’t imagine starting the next phase of my career anywhere else. … Since joining in 2017 our progression has been consistent and we have clear ambitions together for the future.”

Norris was the test and simulator driver for McLaren in 2017 before becoming their reserve driver in 2018.

The announcement comes ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix, which was not run in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Norris finished on the lead lap in 11th in that race in 2019.

Norris finished ninth in the championship hunt last year with six top-fives in 17 races. He ended on a high note with two of those strong runs coming in the final three races.

McLaren finished third in the Constructors Championship last year with 202 points and a seven-point margin over fourth-place Racing Point.

“I’m delighted with the extension of our agreement with Lando for 2022 and beyond,” Zak Brown, CEO, McLaren Racing said. “He’s been instrumental in our return of form here at McLaren and we’re proud of the growth he’s shown since he first started with us back in 2017. Lando is one of the brightest talents on the Formula 1 grid and we look forward to seeing him continue to go from strength-to-strength both on and off track.”

IndyCar drivers say Thermal Club could host race after successful opening day to test

IndyCar Thermal race
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THERMAL, Calif. – The “motorsports country club” passed the first test (figuratively and literally) with NTT IndyCar Series drivers pleased enough to proclaim The Thermal Club as race-eligible after its debut.

Though there were a few minor incidents on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile permanent road course east of Palm Springs in Southern California’s Coachella Valley, there was no significant damage for the 27 full-time cars that turned 1,119 laps Thursday.

Perhaps more importantly, drivers seemed to enjoy the ride around the track, which is unlike anything on the current circuit.

“I would love to race here,” said Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Marcus Armstrong, who posted the 10th-quickest time (1 minute, 39.9077 seconds) in the No. 11 Dallara-Honda that he will race on street and road courses after coming from the F2 Series. “I think it’s awesome. Would have to do a lot of neck training prior to the race because it’s much like a European circuit, quite demanding on the neck, towards the end of the lap anyway.

PRACTICE SPEEDS: First session l Second session l Combined

‘AN AMAZING PLACE’: IndyCar and its big plans for Thermal

“I think it’s cool. Very flowing, banked corners, banked high-speed corners. In terms of racing, it could be potentially not a lot of overtaking. You’d have to commit hard (in) maybe Turn 1. It wouldn’t be the easiest place to overtake. As a whole facility and circuit, it’s very enjoyable.”

Juncos Hollinger Racing No. 77 Chevrolet driver Callum Ilott, another F2 veteran who is entering his second year in IndyCar, was seventh fastest. Ilott said Thermal would “set a standard really of what we want to be doing with this series.

“It’s really, really high level, high tech,” said Ilott, whose rookie teammate Agustin Canapino went off course twice but incurred no major trouble. “As a circuit, yeah, it’s got a little bit different corners. I think the overtaking — we’ll find a way, we’re IndyCar — someone always sends it down the inside. I think if we can extend the straight and get some overtaking between Turn 6 and 7. It’s definitely a great circuit to drive and good fun and a bit different to the normal winter training we get in Florida. So I like the circuit.

“I think if we could, it would be good to race here once.”

Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta, who turned the fastest lap (1:39.3721) in his No. 26, also was optimistic despite the passing challenges.

“I think it really comes down to tire deg, what people are showing with that,” Herta said. “It will be tough to pass, right? A lot of the good braking zones, you’re coming off of high-speed corners, so it will be hard to follow.

“But you never know. I would say some of the tracks we go to would be terrible for racing, and IndyCar still puts on a great show. You never know until it’s tested and proven right or wrong.”

The possibility of adding an IndyCar race at The Thermal Club has been floated, but there would be some challenges. It likely would be a made-for-TV event given it’s a private club (and filled with multimillion-dollar homes filled with vintage cars). The test is closed to the public and open only to members and VIPs.

There also are some areas that would need to be improved, namely the galvanized steel Armco barriers that ring the track and generally are considered antiquated in motorsports.

“I think the Armco might propose a little bit of an issue,” Ilott said. “Again, it depends on what angle you’re hitting them obviously. It’s a pretty straightforward process to make it a bit safer and a bit more cushiony. I’m not in charge of that stuff. I just drive and try not to hit those things.

“I think it’s a straightforward process. To be fair, everyone has had a little moment today, spun and carried on. That’s a good start. Obviously there are anomalies, these things happen. So far, so good.”

Said Herta: For sure. It probably needs a little bit of work. They’ve already done a lot for us to come here already. It seems like if they do want to have a race here, they’re willing to put the work in and money in to upgrade the facility to make it a little bit safer for us.”

Christian Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was second fastest (1:39.3767), followed by Alex Palou (1:39.3970) and Romain Grosjean (1:39.4826). Will Power was the top Chevrolet driver in fifth (1:39.5690).

Though Andretti had two of the top four times, Herta downplayed the significance other than getting reacclimated to his team.

“Just a lot of knocking the rust off,” he said. “It’s quite a long offseason without being in the car. I don’t know how much we’re really going to learn from running here. It’s really good to get the team back into it, get all the boys working again. Yeah, just get everybody back into the flow of it.

“It could be a huge shake-up when we go to St. Pete and who’s up front and who’s at the back. It is too early to tell. It’s nice just to be back in the car and get lap times down, get everybody working again.

“The track surface is very strange, very different to anything I’ve really felt in IndyCar. It’s seven first-gear corners. We don’t really have that many anywhere we go on a street course. It is quite a bit slower than our natural terrain courses. But I don’t want to be in here and dig it the whole time. It’s a fun track to drive, especially the back section. It keeps you on your toes. It doesn’t really replicate anything else that we go (race).”

The test will continue with another six-hour session Friday.