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Brown admits signing Norris in 2019 'was a risk'

  • Published on 25 Jan 2020 14:02
  • comments 7
  • By: Fergal Walsh

McLaren CEO Zak Brown recognises that signing Lando Norris to the team on a full-time basis for the 2019 season was a risk. 

The Briton made his F1 debut with the Woking squad last year and impressed many during his maiden season, showing strong form in both qualifying pace and race trim.

It was also a positive campaign for McLaren, who managed to overturn their poor performances of previous years and consistently compete at the front of the field. 

MOREMcLaren not expecting 2019-esque leap in 2020 | Norris: 'Best thing' is to work with Sainz in order to win at McLaren | 

Norris scored a best result of sixth place twice during the season, and ended up finishing 11th in the drivers' championship with 49.

Despite coming from continuous successful years in junior categories, Brown acknowledges that bringing the 19-year-old into the team had its dangers.

"It was a risk, as Lando was the youngest British driver," Brown told Marca. "But from his first free practice, he was impressive. Even when he ran the Daytona 24 hours with Fernando Alonso there was a debate to see which was the fastest.

"Lando took on the challenge but I knew he was ready when he did his first practice. He was as relaxed as when I saw him on the grid of a Formula Renault race. He seemed calm and immediately had the speed."

'Red Bull environment was tough for Sainz'

Brown also spoke about Carlos Sainz, who also completed his first season with McLaren in 2019.

After spending almost three years at Toro Rosso, Sainz moved to Renault towards the end of the 2017 season, before signing a contract with McLaren.

The Spaniard achieved his maiden podium finish at Brazil last year following a post-race penalty for Lewis Hamilton.

Brown believes that the high-pressure environment of the Red Bull programme was tough for Sainz, who has found a new home at McLaren.

"Carlos has been outstanding with us," Brown said. "I think he had one-year contracts in the Red Bull-Toro Rosso environment. Obviously Red Bull is a fantastic team, but they can be tough with their drivers.

"I think Carlos is a driver who needs to know that he has a team that supports him and that the next race will not be the last for him. That is a little of the sort of atmosphere they [Red Bull] sometimes create."

Replies (7)

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  • f1ski

    Posts: 726

    His job must be on the line so he is tooting his own horn

    • + 0
    • Jan 25 2020 - 15:28
    • We're quite cynical today aren't we?

      • + 0
      • Jan 26 2020 - 04:27
    • I love indulging in some cynicism (shocking, I know!), but cynicism is, for once, not needed here. On the opposite: Brown is responsible for McLaren's resurge, responsible for the massive restructuring what they went through and responsible for a lot of their recent sponsors. Were it not for him, McLaren could've been down with Williams. I'd dare say that with a horn like that, he is right to toot it all day. At any rate, the stake holders are very pleased with him (allegedly, this is pure goss).

      • + 2
      • Jan 26 2020 - 17:33
  • All credit to Zak - he backs his instincts and that hasn't let him down. Big year for the team coming up - must build on the reliability/racing performance shown last year - two exciting drivers, sponsors situation looking good - its looking good !

    • + 1
    • Jan 26 2020 - 13:29
  • f1ski

    Posts: 726

    My cynicism come from what context did he need to make this comment. Mclaren has turned things around. It is always a risk signing a young driver as the pressure has different effects on people at different times in their lives. It seemed an odd comment. These guys never say anything without reason

    • + 0
    • Jan 26 2020 - 21:29
    • Remember, it's off season. Just about anything seems to qualify as news even if it's not news-worthy. Often these kinds of stories just come from some conversation that wasn't really intended to be a headline source. Shoot the messenger, not the message. ;~)

      • + 0
      • Jan 26 2020 - 23:59
  • Bilstar

    Posts: 54

    Norris has been worth the risk. He's been fun to watch on the track and he's done their PR no harm either. I feel he really contributed to Mclaren's very welcome return (ish) to form. From a less than ship shape sh** show to something resembling a team firing on all cylinders, I've gotta give credit to Zak and all the team. I would NOT have bet any money on the team performing as well as they did last year. Long may it continue.

    • + 0
    • Jan 27 2020 - 12:58

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  • Team McLaren
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