Formula One testing first for young gun Lando Norris, then a desperate dash across the globe to the Macau Grand Prix
The 17-year-old is on the rise and hopes to add his name to the list of greats to have delivered on the Guia circuit
Teenage sensation Lando Norris will make a mad dash across the globe to ensure he can have a crack at next weekend’s Suncity Group 64th Macau Grand Prix as the rising British star looks to write his name alongside the greats of the sport who have won on the Guia circuit.
“It’s going to be tricky – and I might have to do a bit of running at some stage – but I’ll get there,” said Norris. “It’s just a race I don’t want to miss.”
The 17-year-old Norris has come of age over the 12 months since he was last seen in these parts, having in October sealed the European Formula Three Championship.
Before that he tore up the track during his first full test with the McLaren F1 team, registering the second fastest lap time across the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend in August, behind former world champion Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari.
Those achievements – and a simple abundance of talent – led to Norris earlier this week being named the McLaren’s reserve and test driver for 2018, displacing former F1 world champion Jenson Button from the role – and meaning if something goes wrong with either Fernando Alonso or Stoffel Vandoorne, the young Briton will step up to the big show.
It also means that Norris is off this weekend to São Paulo, Brazil, and to testing at the Interlagos circuit with the McLaren team.
If the youngster is to make it to Macau in enough time to climb into his Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen for the first qualifying session on Thursday afternoon, the equation is simple – if a tad frightening.
Norris is in France testing the car he will drive at the 2018 Daytona 24 Hours when we speak before jetting off to join McLaren in Brazil. Then, come late Tuesday, it’s looking like a flight from Sao Paulo to Frankfurt, then on to Beijing and, finally, Macau.
Free practice will be impossible but first qualifying is the target, given smooth travels and a little help from the gods above. But Norris remains unfazed by what’s ahead.
“It’s going to be a challenge but the opportunity to test in F1 again is too good to miss,” he said. “It’s more valuable and important to me obviously than one practice in Macau.
“But I want to return to Macau. It’s a great track and a great race. It’s very tough and demanding and if I have a chance of winning it would be a great way to end a fantastic season for me.
“The time will be tight but we can do it. A little bit of running and maybe a lot of coffee.”
Norris admits that last year he arrived for his first Macau Grand Prix with stars in his eyes, given the event’s rich history and its roll-call of champions that includes the likes of the late great Ayrton Senna, along with fellow future Formula One stars in Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard.
Watch: Lando Norris comes unstuck in qualifying pile-up last year
Norris certainly made an impression at the first time of asking last year, being involved in a spectacular five-car pile-up near the start of final qualifying.
That sent him to the back of the grid for the main event but Norris produced a sensational effort as he worked his way through the field around Macau’s twisting and turning streets before finishing 11th behind eventual winner Antonio Felix da Costa – meaning the teenager had left 17 rivals trailing in his wake by the race’s end.
“Last year in Macau there was bit of a rookie mistake but then I had a lot of fun and it filled me with confidence going into this year,” said Norris. “Last year I wasn’t just a rookie to Macau, I was a rookie to the car.
“But it was really cool. It’s so much different getting behind the wheel and actually being out there, compared to walking the track. Everything just comes so much faster. It looks a lot tighter. It’s a bit intimidating at first but it’s awesome.”
Since then, there has been no stopping him as Norris made his full-season debut with Carlin in the European Formula Three Championship, winning nine races before being crowned champion.
The contract with McLaren takes things to another level entirely – but Norris says he is not yet the finished article.
“The season went better than I expected and better than most people expected. It’s just been a very good year in general. Everything has just gone right for me,” he said.
“It’s a case of more learning for me and every bit of that will help. I’ve been given a great opportunity by McLaren and I look forward to it but I’m not famous yet.”
Victory for Norris in Macau next week will put paid to that statement in short time.