McLaren’s Chief Executive Officer Zak Brown has highlighted the importance of Lando Norris to the team by branding him a “franchise” driver.
Norris enjoyed another tremendous Formula 1 campaign in 2022, excelling in relatively difficult circumstances to achieve the only podium from outside of the leading three teams and finishing well clear of the rest of the midfield in the Drivers’ standings.
But as the Woking-based squad slipped back to a position of fifth in the Constructors’ standings, Norris’ elusive wait for a first F1 victory stretched into a fifth season.
Nevertheless, Brown believes the Brit is as good as anybody on the current grid, despite his lack of victories in comparison to the other big stars.
“Lando’s a franchise driver”, Brown told ESPN. “Lando’s one of those guys if we put everyone in a dirt buggy and we put all the F1 drivers in a race, he’d be at the front because he’s got that natural talent.
“He’s a total star and he’s pushing us.”
Although Brown has previously declared the former world champions won’t be able to tackle the top teams until construction work on their new wind tunnel is completed, Norris renewed his contract with McLaren through to the end of 2025 before racing had even commenced last season.
However, Brown is mindful that Norris will be wanting to translate his haul of podiums into race wins sooner or later after seeing similar drivers of his generation – including his long-time rival and friend, George Russell – stand on the top step of the rostrum as recently as the end of last year.
“He wants to be winning races, I’m sure he knows he can beat George and he has beaten George before… and he goes out and wins.
“He’s going to be anxious people he’s raced with don’t get too many more wins before he starts getting his”, the American admitted.
Brown has also praised Norris for his development since his promotion to a McLaren race seat in 2019 into what he now regards as one of the best drivers in the entire sport.
“Definitely,” was the swift response Brown delivered when asked if he truly thinks Norris belongs in the top tier of current F1 drivers.
“Unbelievably fast. He pulls it out in qualifying all the time. He can put a lap together. He rarely makes mistakes – when he does, they’re very small. It’s, he missed the apex, he locked a brake, but you don’t see him sticking it in the fence.
“His race craft is really strong now. If I look at year one, he was a little too polite on track at times. Now he’s someone you can race hard with and he’ll race you hard, he’s clean but he’s hard, he gets his elbows out.
“He can manage tyres very well. I think he is as good as anyone on the grid”, he said.