Ryan Wood  |    |   0  |  4 June 2018

McLaren's Lando Norris on Toro Rosso's radar as Brendon Hartley faces axe


Red Bull Racing are reportedly courting McLaren star Lando Norris as a potential replacement for Brendon Hartley, who, according to various sources is at risk of losing his Toro Rosso seat.

Hartley and team-mate Pierre Gasly joined STR late last season after the outfit axed Daniil Kvyat, whilst Carlos Sainz was loaned to Renault at short notice following Toro Rosso's switch to Honda engines.

The team, which is owned by Red Bull, has a history of changing its driver line-up if it believes one of its juniors is underperforming and Hartley, who has scored just one point to Pierre Gasly's 18, is under pressure to lift his results.

Rumours in Spain suggested former Sauber driver and Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein could be in line to replace Hartley, but those claims were dismissed by Hartley himself who insisted he holds a valid contract.

"I was surprised to hear that [rumour]. I have a contract. There's always a lot of rumours in Formula 1, so as a driver, it's better not to read too much."

But what of Red Bull's own stable of young drivers? Dan Ticktum is the most senior but given he's in his maiden season of the FIA European Formula 3 Championship, it's not thought he'll be ready for the jump to F1 until at least 2020, which is the same story for Nirei Fukuzumi.

Therefore Red Bull must look elsewhere and fresh speculation has now linked Formula 2 championship leader Norris with the seat, although this might not initially make sense given the British driver is contracted to McLaren.

But with Fernando Alonso on the verge of quitting F1 to focus on a potential IndyCar entry with McLaren next season as he attempts to secure motorsports unofficial 'Triple Crown' – and even if he doesn't, Stoffel Vandoorne could lose his seat given he's scored just eight points to Alonso's 32 and doesn't have a contract after 2018 – McLaren will likely be in need of a driver for 2019.

By agreeing to loan the highly-rated Norris to Red Bull for the remainder of the current season, it provides Toro Rosso with a potential boost in their battle over sixth in the standings with Haas on the same number of points and Force India just seven ahead, whilst McLaren receives an experienced and race-ready Norris for the 2019 season.

Red Bull will likely give Hartley a couple more races to prove himself, but if we've learned anything from Toro Rosso's driver line-up over the past few seasons, it's unlikely to remain unchanged if a driver underperforms.

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